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Studying Agriculture in the US

Week 30 of our Foreign Student Series looks at agricultural programs. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

A listener from China named Walker would like information about agricultural programs in the United States. This is our subject today in week number thirty of our Foreign Student Series.

About one hundred colleges and universities began as public agricultural colleges and continue to teach agriculture. These are called land grant schools. They began with support from the federal government. Federal aid supported the building of most major state universities.

The idea of the land grant college goes back to a law in the nineteenth century called the Morrill Act. A congressman named Justin Smith Morrill wrote legislation to create at least one in each state.

The name "land grant" came from the kind of aid provided by the government. The government wanted Americans to learn better ways to farm. So it gave thousands of hectares of land to each Northern state.

The idea was that the states would sell the land and use the money to establish colleges. These colleges would teach agriculture, engineering and military science.

Congress passed the law in eighteen sixty-two. This was during the Civil War. Southern states had rebelled against the North and withdrawn from the Union.

Another law created a center at each land grant college to develop new scientific ideas and to help farmers solve problems.

The Agricultural College of the State of Michigan was established in eighteen fifty-five. That was seven years before the Morrill Act. It later became the first college to officially agree to receive support under that law. The college grew into what is now Michigan State University in East Lansing.

Today, the university has more than forty thousand students. These include more than three thousand five hundred students from one hundred thirty other countries.

Last year the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State had three hundred thirty-six foreign students. More than two hundred of them were graduate students in the areas of agricultural economics, packaging, and crop and soil sciences.

Undergraduates majoring in agriculture can also study other related areas. These include agricultural education and food industry management.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. We will have a link to the Michigan State Web site at We also have other helpful links along with transcripts and audio files from our Foreign Student Series. I'm Steve Ember.