MSU faculty appointed to national boards advising U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Congress

Contact: Vanessa Beeson

Portrait of Mark Lawrence
Mark Lawrence (OPA Photo)
Portrait of Lorin Harvey
Lorin Harvey (Photo by Beth Wynn)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Two Mississippi State University faculty members are serving on national boards that provide insight and advice to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and Congress.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently reappointed Mark Lawrence, professor in the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine, to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education and Economics Advisory Board, and appointed Lorin Harvey, MSU Department of Plant and Soil Sciences assistant professor, to the specialty crop subcommittee of the NAREEE Advisory Board. The boards advise Vilsack and, per mandate, provide reports and recommendations to Congress’s appropriate agricultural committees.

Keith Coble, vice president of the university’s Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine, said it is an honor to have two faculty members within the division driving the national conversation in research, extension, education and economics.

“Few universities can say they have two faculty members serving on the NAREEE Advisory Board and its subcommittees. We are proud of our scientists and their national reputation as trusted sources of research-based information,” Coble said. “By leveraging their knowledge and expertise, the USDA is able to make informed decisions that benefit not only the nation’s economy but also its people and the environment.”

Lawrence is the director of the university’s Global Center for Aquatic Health and Food Security and the U.S. Agency for International Development-funded Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish housed at MSU. He is in his second term and has served on the 10-person NAREEE Advisory Board since 2016. He was recommended by and represents the U.S. Colleges of Veterinary Medicine. He said it’s fulfilling to serve on a dynamic board that includes perspectives from academe and industry to advise the USDA on the relevance and adequacy of their programming.

“It’s interesting hearing reports from each agency—their priorities, what they are doing and where they are going. It’s an opportunity and responsibility to be the voice for any issues related to veterinary medicine in support of animal health for the USDA,” he said. “I try to provide a perspective concerning relevant and pressing issues in animal health, such as One Health, antimicrobial resistance and infectious disease. Prior to joining the board, I spent years as a USDA researcher studying catfish disease in the Southeastern U.S. That experience coupled with my current role as director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish allows me to bring the perspective of aquaculture to the board as well.” 

Harvey, stationed at the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station’s Pontotoc Ridge-Flatwoods Branch, has dual appointments as a research scientist with MAFES and as sweet potato specialist with the MSU Extension Service. He will serve on the 10-person Specialty Crop Committee tasked with studying the scope and effectiveness of federal programs affecting this industry, specifically related to the Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

Harvey applied for the position, was recommended by the NAREEE Advisory Board and then nominated by Vilsack. He said he is excited to represent MSU and Mississippi as an important state for specialty crops, including sweet potatoes.

“I've been through the process of utilizing these funding opportunities a couple of times now, so I'm really excited to be able to look at it from both sides—as someone who has submitted a project as well as someone who will be reflecting on the effectiveness of these projects,” he said. “My goal is to help move the programs forward in a meaningful way that better utilizes federal funding for specialty crops.”

For more information about the College of Veterinary Medicine, Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and MSU Extension Service, visit, and

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