NIFA Update Jan. 31

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                          Jan. 31, 2018

Making a Difference

Precision Agriculture Technology

Improving Precision Agriculture Technology

Worldwide demand for food, fiber, and fuel is increasing rapidly. To keep up, production systems need to be intensified, but also sustainable. Precision technologies, such as GPS, sensors, robotics, drones, autonomous vehicles, and 3D and thermal imaging, help famers fine-tune irrigation, fertilization, disease and pest control, harvesting, and other practices. Precision boosts productivity and limits the impacts of agriculture on our soil, water, and air resources. Research is needed to design and calibrate precision technologies, and farmers need to know how to use these technologies and interpret the complex data they generate. Researchers and extension specialists across the U.S. are working together to advance the science of precision agriculture and support growers who are adopting precision technologies. Increased adoption of advanced precision technologies will help ensure the security of the food, fiber, and fuel we rely on. Read more about the Multistate Research Fund Impact online


Dr. Catalino Blanche

In Memoriam: Dr. Catalino Blanche


It is with great sadness that I inform you of Dr. Catalino “Lino” Blanche’s passing.

I have known Lino and his family since the 1980s, when we overlapped at Mississippi State University, and I know he’ll be missed by his family, colleagues, and friends. Through his long career, he had significant, national impact in the area of forestry.

Lino was the national program leader for forest resources at NIFA's Institute of Bioenergy, Climate, and Environment in Washington, DC. He provided leadership and management for the McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Research Program and other forestry-related programs at NIFA for the last 15 years.

Prior to joining the agency, Dr. Blanche served as the Associate Director of the Urban Forestry Program of Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; as research scientist (agroforestry program leader) for USDA's Agricultural Research Service at the Dale Bumpers Small Farm Research Center in Booneville, Arkansas; and as research scientist at Mississippi State University. He also served as a member of the Secretary of Agriculture’s Forestry Research Advisory Council.

Lino received his BS degree in forest utilization engineering and Master of Science in agriculture from the University of the Philippines in Los Banos; he also received a Master of Science in forest resources from the University of Georgia and Ph.D. in forestry from Mississippi State University. His research interests included Southern pine-bark beetle interactions, accelerated aging of tree seeds, primary productivity, bioenergy, urban forestry, and agroforestry.

Lino served as the President of the Philippine-American Academy of Science and Engineering from 2013-2015. 

Our hearts go out to Lino’s wife, Fe, and daughters, Kathleen and Kathryn. 

Sonny Ramaswamy
Director, National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Map Veterinarian Shortage Situations

Veterinarian Shortage Situations for FY 2018

The map of Veterinarian Shortage Situations for FY 2018 contains all applicable designations for the fiscal year (FY) 2018 application cycle. All states shaded blue have at least one designated shortage area. The shortage situations will appear in the table below the map. Additional details for that area are available by clicking on the PDF or the ID code of the area of interest. Previous years' designations are available by selecting the year of interest and applying the filter. (Data not is not available for all program years.)

These designations are part of the eligibility determination for USDA’s Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP), authorized by the National Veterinary Medical Services Act (NVMSA), which helps qualified veterinarians offset a significant portion of the debt incurred in pursuit of their veterinary medicine degrees in return for their service in certain high-priority veterinary shortage situations for specific lengths of time. If veterinarians commit to at least three years of providing veterinary services in a designated veterinary shortage area, NIFA may repay up to $25,000 of student loan debt per year. The FY 2018 Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program application period will open in February. NIFA will issue a request for applications (RFA), with an expected  application deadline of March 16.

Minority Collage Student

Community-Education, NCAC Ag Committee Partnership

Members of the NCAC-24 Agricultural Education Research Committee provided valuable feedback on NIFA RFAs that contain significant educational components. The committee reviewed approximately 14 education and minority serving institution (MSI) RFAs and provided six recommendations to strengthen the RFAs. The recommendations may also influence future RFAs. Some of the recommendations presented by NCAC-24 have already been addressed in FY18 RFAs.

The Division of Community and Education (DOCE) assembled an RFA editing team to streamline and harmonize the agency’s education and MSI RFAs. As a result, FY18 RFAs will be shorter, more uniform, utilize more generic terms for project and grant types, and be less prescriptive.

Farm Bill

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue

Perdue Announces USDA’s Farm Bill and Legislative Principles for 2018

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Bill and Legislative Principles for 2018 during a town hall at Reinford Farms in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania.

“Since my first day as the Secretary of Agriculture, I’ve traveled to 30 states, listening to the people of American agriculture about what is working and what is not. The conversations we had and the people we came across helped us craft USDA’s Farm Bill and Legislative Principles for 2018,” said Secretary Perdue. “These principles will be used as a road map – they are our way of letting Congress know what we’ve heard from the hard-working men and women of American agriculture. While we understand it’s the legislature’s job to write the Farm Bill, USDA will be right there providing whatever counsel Congress may request or require.”

USDA Message

Ag Outlook Forum logo

Plenary Speakers Announced for the 2018 Agricultural Outlook Forum

USDA announced its speakers for the 2018 Agricultural Outlook Forum, Feb. 22–23, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia.

This year’s forum is themed “The Roots of Prosperity.” The opening plenary session will feature keynote remarks from Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, and welcoming comments from Deputy Secretary Steve Censky. USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansson will present “The 2018 Economic Outlook for Agriculture." Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank and 2017 World Food Prize Laureate, is the forum's distinguished speaker. Read the full USDA press release.

RFA Grant and Award Announcements

 NIFA Announces Support for Women and Minorities in STEM

NIFA announced support for research, education, teaching, and extension projects that increase participation by women and underrepresented minorities from rural areas in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Funding is made through NIFA’s Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Fields (WAMS) Grant Program.   

WAMS develops and implements robust collaborations that improve the economic health and viability of rural communities across the nation. Funded projects will lead to the development of a robust and diverse food and agricultural workforce that is highly competent in the application of STEM knowledge and skills, with increased participation of women and minorities. Read the full request for applications announcement.


NIFA Announces Support for Distance Education Grants Program for Institutions of Higher Education in Insular Areas

NIFA announced $800,000 in available funding to support the Distance Education Grants (DEG) program for institutions of higher education in insular areas. 

DEG strengthens the capacity of institutions of higher education in insular areas to carry out resident instruction, curriculum, and teaching programs in the food, agriculture, natural resource and human sciences through distance education technology. Funded project activities will support the creation, adaptation, and adoption of learning materials and teaching strategies to operationalize what we know about how students learn. Read the full request for applications announcement.


NIFA Announces Support for Higher Education in Insular Areas

NIFA announced support for postsecondary agricultural science programs in insular areas. Funding is made through NIFA’s Resident Instruction Grants Program for Institutions of Higher Education in Insular Areas (RIIA) and the Agriculture and Food Sciences Facilities and Equipment Program for Insular Areas (AGFEI).
RIIA strengthens the ability of eligible institutions in the insular areas to carry out education within the food, agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences. This includes enhancing libraries, curriculum, faculty, scientific instrumentation, and student recruitment and retention. Furthermore, it facilitates cooperative initiatives between other insular area institutions, units of state government, or private sector organizations in the development of resources to enhance food and agricultural sciences teaching programs. Read the full request for applications announcement.