NIFA Update, Jan. 11, 2017

Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.

NIFA Update Banner

Jan.11, 2017

The People’s Department: Growing a Stronger and Healthier Future for America

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack

At USDA, we have spent the past eight years working to support communities and create opportunity in rural America.

Our Progress:

  • USDA made targeted investments to help rural areas grow, and also transformed itself into a 21st century service provider that delivers programs and services to all Americans.
  • We have made significant investments in affordable rural housing, energy efficiency and availability, community facilities, clean and reliable drinking water and wastewater systems, and internet access, coupled with historic levels of loans and grants for rural businesses.
  • We have strengthened the emerging bioeconomy by supporting renewable energy and manufacturing of biobased products.
  • We have invested in conservation and elevated eco-markets. 

Under this Administration, USDA has created and invested in a strategy for rural America, and thanks to those efforts, the future of our rural communities looks bright today. But there is more work to be done to ensure that USDA’s targeted investments continue to help.

Read Full Exit Memo and USDA Record of Progress online.

USDA Announces $2.9 Million Available for Biorefinery Research

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the availability of $2.9 million in funding for research to improve biorefinery technologies. The Integrated Biorefinery Optimization program is coordinated and co-funded jointly between NIFA and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office. Eligible applicants include state agricultural experiment stations, colleges and universities, and other public and private U.S. research organizations. Funding may be used to reduce risk and provide resources to accelerate commercialization of advanced or cellulosic biofuels and bioproducts. Applications are due by April 3, 2017.

USDA's 93rd Ag Outlook Forum

Ag Forum

Registration is now open for the 93rd Annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, Feb. 23-24, Arlington, Va. This year's theme is A New Horizon: The Future of Agriculture. Early registration closes Jan. 26.

Food Safety Outreach Program Listening Session

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture published in the Dec. 12, 2016, Federal Register (FR), notice of a NIFA Stakeholder Listening Session and request for stakeholder input. The focus of the upcoming listening session is to gather stakeholder input to develop the priorities for the Request for Applications (RFA) in Fiscal Year 2018. NIFA is interested in reaching the intended audience, achieving the most impact, and identifying suggested priorities for the Food Safety Outreach Program. The session is on Tues., Jan. 31 from 1 - 3 p.m., Eastern Standard Time (EST). All written comments must be received by 5 p.m. EST on Jan. 31, to be considered in the initial drafting of the FY 2018 Food Safety Outreach Program request for applications. For more details go to the FR Notice.

Shah Named Rockefeller Foundation President

Rajiv Shah

The New York Times has reported that 43-year-old Detroit native Rajiv J. Shah’s has been named as the new President of the Rockefeller Foundation. Shah was already a trustee of the foundation, and until recently was the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). He is also the former director of NIFA.

8th Annual Agroforestry Symposium

Agroforestry Symposium

The 8th Annual Agroforestry Symposium, Enhancing Health, Conservation and Livelihoods: Medicinal Plants in Agroforestry is Jan. 26 at the Bond Life Sciences Center at the University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo. The symposium is free and open to the public; advanced registration is requested. If you wish to join via livestream, visit the official website for details. 

UVM Appoints Ross Extension Director  

The University of Vermont (UVM) College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has named Chuck Ross director of UVM Extension. Ross is currently secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, a position he has held since 2011. Prior to his role as secretary, Ross served for 16 years as state director and senior advisor under U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. Dr. Douglas Lantagne stepped down as dean and director of the University of Vermont (UVM) Extension effective Jan. 1.

PECASE Award Winner


Yesterday, President Obama named 102 scientists and researchers as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. Among the many worthy recipients were two NIFA-funded researchers: 

Dr. Michelle Cilia is a research molecular biologist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service, an Assistant Professor at the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI), and holds an adjunct appointment in the School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS) at Cornell University. Cilia is advancing her innovative work with proteins to tackle citrus greening disease, a bacterial infection that threatens the viability of the citrus industry worldwide. She is part of a collaboration that received a NIFA Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant for $10 million to discover a solution by 2020. 

Dr. Pankaj LalMontclair State University, was nominated for his work in assessing socioeconomic impacts of forest biomass based biofuel development on rural communities in the Southern United States. His proposal was novel and innovative in that it comprehensively addressed the entire bioenergy supply chain by using segment analyses and by integrating biophysical, social, and economic information to predict the socio- economic impacts of forest biomass-based biofuels on rural communities.  

The Future of Biotechnology


On Jan. 4, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the 2017 Update to the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology and accompanying National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products. This update represents the first time in 30 years that the Federal government has produced a comprehensive summary of the roles and responsibilities of the three principal regulatory agencies with respect to regulating biotechnology products. More information about this initiative is available on the White House Website.

NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and extension, and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges.

The NIFA Update is a weekly compendium of news and information that may be of interest to Land-Grant and non-Land-Grant Universities, NIFA stakeholders, and other subscribers. 

Editor: Judy Rude