Talia Duffy is a Gary Marx Journalism Fund intern.

Twelve Midwestern land-grant universities got at least $1.4 billion in agricultural research grants between 2012 and 2022, data shows. 

That’s 42.4% of the at least $3.5 billion total given to land-grant universities, according to a dataset of grants for ag research. Michigan State was the top recipient.

The dataset was created by journalist and researcher Alex Park, in collaboration with climate research group ARIA, through open records requests to universities and Form 990 tax reports for nonprofit organizations.

The chart below shows the percentage of grant money that comes from different organization types for six Midwestern land-grant universities.

In 1862, the first Morrill Act set up land-grant universities, dedicating land for each state to create universities focused on agriculture and mechanics. Later legislation established historically black and tribal land-grant colleges and universities. 

These schools attract hundreds of millions in ag research grant money each year, according to the dataset.

How we analyzed the data

The 12 Midwestern land-grant universities: are Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Michigan State University, North Dakota State University, Ohio State University, Purdue University, South Dakota State University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

There are other types of LGUs, including tribal colleges and universities and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities established by the 1890 Morrill Act. However, the dataset had complete information for universities established by the 1862 Morrill Act.

Before calculations, rows with an empty value for organization type were filled with “Not Available.” 

Government money comes from organizations such as the USDA, the National Institutes of Health and various state government programs. Corporate money is from companies such as John Deere and Elanco. Checkoff money comes from various programs like the National Pork Board and United Soybean Board. 

The “other” category includes International Development NGOs (such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), trade groups, various types of nonprofits, autonomous research organizations, global research group CGIAR (formerly the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research), individuals and general foundations.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison redacted the majority of their grant sponsors, causing a disproportionately large amount of money to be categorized as “other / not available.” Similarly, Michigan State University’s “other” category was inflated by large sums from CGIAR.

Type of work:

Explainer A data-driven story that provides background, definition and detail on a specific topic.

Talia Duffy is a student at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, where she is majoring in journalism and statistics. She has worked on the Daily Illini, the campus student newspaper. Duffy's internship...