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Groundbreaking for new Ag buildings held at Texas A&M


New facilities at Texas A&M University will attract students who will become agriculture's future leaders and showcase agriculture's vital role in sustaining human life, Texas A&M President Dr. Elsa Murano told a celebratory crowd of 200 at groundbeaking ceremonies May 22.

Murano spoke at an event marking the start of construction on a $62.4 million agriculture headquarters building and visitor center on the Texas A&M campus.

"As a land-grant institution, we have a responsibility to serve our state, our nation and our fellow man," she said. "There's no better way to do it than through agriculture."

She recalled the efforts of Dr. Norman Borlaug, the long-time Texas A&M agronomist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in the 1970s as a central figure of the Green Revolution, the scientific advances that dramatically improved grain crop production in third-world countries.

His work saved more lives than anyone else in history, she said, and in these buildings, "we will be preparing leaders of future generations, who, like Dr. Borlaug, are going to go out and change the world for the better." The visitor center, she added, is being designed to demonstrate "the impact that agriculture has on everybody, even those who think that chocolate milk comes from brown cows."

The two buildings are the first phase of a planned four-building agriculture complex northwest of Reed Arena on the university's west campus.

The five-story headquarters facility will enclose 166,000 square feet and house administrative offices of the vice chancellor for Agriculture and Life Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, and Texas AgriLife Research.

The building will also provide space for classrooms and faculty for three academic departments: agricultural economics; agricultural leadership, education and communications; and recreation, park and tourism sciences. The 13,000-square-foot visitor center "will showcase agriculture and life sciences as vital components of everyday living," said Dr. Mark Hussey, vice chancellor for Agriculture and Life Sciences.

It will promote and honor the school's land-grant mission, he said, "and it will show young people the variety of opportunities open to them today in agriculture and the life sciences. We hope it will inspire everyone who visits."

The buildings will have LEED Silver certification, a rating by the U.S. Green Building Council for environmentally responsible buildings that save energy and resources, Hussey said. Among the buildings' earth-friendly features, rainwater from the roof will flow into a 40,000 gallon underground tank that will be used for irrigation.

In addition to Murano and Hussey, speakers included Texas A&M System Chancellor Dr. Michael McKinney and Morris Foster, new chair of the Texas A&M Board of Regents. McKinney, a physician, pointed out that the recent flu outbreak has underscored the "undeniable link" between animal diseases and human diseases, and the people who will work in these buildings will have opportunities to help solve such problems and "protect us for years to come."

"Texas A&M AgriLife is the premier public agency in Texas for the development of sustainable practices in the fields of agriculture and life sciences, with a direct impact on our nutrition and our health, as well as our environment," Foster said.

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