Sec. Tom Vilsack joins UK officials to break ground on new $65.9 million research facility

Photo credit: Arden Barnes | UKphoto

United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack joined Sen. Mitch McConnell and University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment officials to break ground for the new $65.9 million Forage Animal Production Lab, which will be located on campus in Lexington. 

“Today’s groundbreaking for the Forage Animal Production Lab speaks to the heart of what a land-grant institution, like ours, is so distinctively positioned to do – to take basic scientific discovery and apply that knowledge to applications that can be transferred directly to producers,” said UK President Eli Capilouto.”

Expected to be completed in 2026, this facility — which will house UK’s Forage-Animal Production Research Unit (FAPRU) — will hold nearly 53,000 square feet of office, support and research laboratory space, along with a collaborative area, a headhouse and eight-bay greenhouses. The mission of the Forage-Animal Production Research Unit (FAPRU) in Lexington is to improve the productivity, sustainability and competitiveness of forage-based enterprises that raise beef cattle, horses, sheep and goats — particularly operators of small- to medium-sized farms.

“Agricultural research bolsters economic growth and enhances food quality and safety all while combatting the climate crisis,” said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. “Today’s groundbreaking builds on more than two decades of partnership with the University of Kentucky, while demonstrating USDA’s latest commitment to pushing the boundaries of what is possible for agriculture, and to creating profitable and sustainable systems, rooted in science, that will advance farmers’ production for years to come.”

Scientists and researchers will use the facility to work to develop sustainable forage systems, ensuring the performance and health of beef cattle, sheep and goats.

“This new facility will ensure continued innovative research for grazing-related industries,” said Nancy Cox, vice president for Land-grant Engagement and dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “We are grateful to Leader McConnell for taking our partnership with ARS to a new level.”

Sen. McConnell praised the hard-working spirit of Kentucky farmers, and said this new facility will allow them to continue to do more of their incredible work in the Commonwealth.

“For a long time, I’ve said Kentucky’s farmers are some of the best in the world. As a senior member of both the Senate Agriculture Committee and Appropriations Committee, I’ve firmly focused my career on supporting agricultural communities across the Commonwealth, and this research facility builds on that commitment in a big way,” said Senator McConnell. “I was proud to do my part and help secure $65.9 million in federal funding to establish this new lab at the University of Kentucky. Thank you, President Capilouto, Dean Cox and Secretary Vilsack for your partnership on this project.”

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