NIFA Update March 28

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                       March 28, 2018

Making a Difference

Spores on spinach roots reveal Fusarium fungus infection. Image provided by Washington State University.

Battle for Spinach: Tiny Crop, Huge Value, No Virgin Soil, Big Trouble

Farmers in the Pacific Northwest grow the seeds that fuel the fast-growing baby leaf spinach market. However, they’re increasingly burdened by a devastating disease that takes their fields out of commission for decades at a time. Washington State University professor is testing a variety of disease-resistant spinach to help growers reduce the impact of Fusarium wilt thanks to Specialty Crop Research Initiative funding. Read the full Washington State University article.

Spores on spinach roots reveal Fusarium fungus infection. The fungus invades the plant’s vascular system, feeding on the plant and stealing its water and nutrients. Image provided by Washington State University.


The Capitol Building

FY 2018 Agriculture Appropriations Omnibus Summary 

March 22, 2018, the House passed by a vote of 256 to 167 in regard to the Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 2018 to provide funding through September 30, 2018, the end of the fiscal year. The President signed the Act Friday, March 23. The Agriculture appropriations portion of the Omnibus provides Federal agencies, including NIFA, funding. The Act includes total funding for NIFA for approximately $1.59 billion, which is an increase of $53 million, or about 3.46%, above the FY 2017 Appropriations Act. The total funding includes $1.423 billion in discretionary funding and $0.162 billion in mandatory and endowment funding. See the Omnibus summary narrative and table for NIFA on the NIFA Budget web page.

Dr. Tesfa Mengistu

NIFA’a New National Program Leader Joins Divisions of Plant Systems-Protection Division

Dr. Tesfa Mengistu joins the Institute of Food Production and Sustainability's Division of Plant Systems - Protection as a national program leader in plant pathology. Mengistu comes from the University of Florida, where he did both teaching and extension work. His research focused on understanding the molecular and genetic basis of nematode plant interactions with the aim of developing and implementing effective, sustainable, and environmentally safe management strategies.

He earned his bachelor's degree in plant sciences at Alemaya University in Ethiopia; a master's in nematology at the University of Ghent in Belgium; and doctorate in soil ecosystem phytopathology and nematology at the University of Bonn in Germany. His postdoctoral research associate position was conducted at University of Illinois, where he worked in the area of pests and diseases affecting crops used for biofuel crops.

FMFIA image

OGFM's Post Award Compliance Review Responsibilities 

NIFA’s Office of Grants and Financial Management (OGFM) conducts post award compliance reviews to meet the agency’s responsibility under the Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act (FMFIA) to provide reasonable assurance that NIFA’s systems of management, accounting, and administrative controls, taken as a whole, meet the objectives specified in Section 2 of the FMFIA.

For more information about post award compliance reviews and to see the schedule of NIFA site visits for Fiscal Year 2018 and Fiscal Year 2019, please visit

Chef Cory Bahr shares cooking tips with 4-H members Renata Jones, and Averi Austin. Photo by Karol Osborne/LSUAgCenter

Louisiana 4-Hers Cook with Celebrity Chef

Northeast Louisiana 4-H members recently joined celebrity chef Cory Bahr for a culinary workshop to inspire the next generation of hospitality professionals to eat better, live longer, and enjoy a healthier lifestyle. The participants prepared Louisiana Gulf Coast shrimp and grits, one of Bahr’s signature recipes. “I was blown away by their understanding of food safety, sanitation, timing, and ability to speak to the judges,” he said. Read the full Louisiana State University article

Chef Cory Bahr shares cooking tips with 4-H members Renata Jones, center, of East Carroll Parish, and Averi Austin, of Madison Parish. Photo by Karol Osborne/LSUAgCenter

News for You

Dairy cows image by UNH

Organic Valley Cooperative Recognizes Research Farm with Top Award

The Organic Dairy Research Farm, a facility of the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of New Hampshire College of Life Sciences and Agriculture, took home the gold for a 2017 Gold Quality Award from the Organic Valley Cooperative.

The national award program is designed to honor organic dairy farmers who produce milk of the highest quality. Nominees are evaluated on their systems of monitoring udder health, milking routine, protocols for detection and treatment of clinical and subclinical cases, treatment protocols, and strategies for overall herd health and welfare. Read the full University of New Hampshire article

Dairy cows image provided by University of New Hampshire.

RFA Grant and Award Announcements

NIFA Invests in Food Safety Outreach and Educational Programs

NIFA announced awards to provide food safety education for producers and processors affected by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Funding is provided through the NIFA’s Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP).  

FSOP supports projects that focus on the implementation of customized training to small and mid-sized farms, beginning farmers, socially-disadvantaged farmers, small processors, and small fresh fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers. Awards are made under three categories: Multistate Education and Training Projects, Community Outreach Projects, and Pilot Projects. Read the full award announcement.

NIFA Announces Support to Relieve Veterinarian Shortage Situations

NIFA announced the availability of funding to help assure rural communities have sufficient access to livestock veterinary services. Funding is made through NIFA’s Veterinary Services Grant Program (VSGP).

VSGP supports education and extension activities and practice enhancement initiatives that will enable veterinarians, veterinary students, veterinary technicians, and veterinary technician students gain specialized skills and provide practices with additional resources needed to more effectively mitigate veterinary service shortages in the U.S. Ultimately, VSGP will bolster the capacity of veterinary practitioners to provide food animal veterinary services in designated rural veterinarian shortage situations. Read the full request for applications announcement.

NIFA Announces Support for Quality of Life in Rural Communities

NIFA announced the availability of funding to address the needs of rural Americans by providing individual and family health education programs. Funding is made through NIFA’s Rural Health and Safety Education Competitive Grant Program (RHSE).

RHSE addresses the health and well-being of rural America through supporting projects in the food, agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences: individual and family health education programs with specified contents; rural health leadership development education programs to assist rural communities in developing health care services and facilities, and assist community leaders and public officials in understanding their roles and responsibilities; and farm safety education programs to provide information and training to farm workers, timber harvesters, and farm families. Read the full request for applications announcement.

NIFA Announces Support to Build Educational Capacity at Tribal Institutions

NIFA announced support to promote post-secondary education at the 1994 Land-grant Institutions (1994s) and increase educational opportunities for American Indians. Funding is made through NIFA’s Tribal Colleges Education Equity Grants Program (TCEG).

TCEG seeks to enhance educational capacity in the food, agricultural, natural resource and human sciences for American Indian institutions by focusing on six legislatively mandated priorities: curricula design and materials development, faculty development and teacher preparation, student experiential learning, equipment and instrumentation for teaching, student recruitment and retention, and instruction delivery systems and strategic partnerships. Read the full request for application announcement