NIFA Update April 4

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                          April 4 2018

Making a Difference

University of Arizona students work with vertical farming facility for research, education and outreach.

Using Space-Age Technology for Down-to-Earth Agriculture

Astronauts and polar explorers can grow fresh foods in space and Antarctica. Now, it’s time for rural communities to get into the greenhouse game.

Similar to what Matt Damon portrayed in the movie The Martian, astronauts can successfully grow enough food to sustain themselves in orbit or on another planet. Researchers in Antarctica have been doing the same since 2004 in an environment where the average yearly temperature is minus 56 F. One of the researchers involved in these extreme environment success stories says that local communities can also benefit from controlled environment agriculture.

Dr. Gene Giacomelli, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at the University of Arizona, leads an internationally recognized, one-of-a-kind research and education program at the university’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (CEAC). Read the full NIFA article.


University of Arizona students work in the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center vertical farming facility for research, education and outreach. (Photo courtesy of Austin Smith).


Sonny Ramaswamy

Special Announcement


I was privileged to be appointed by President Barack Obama to serve under Secretary Tom Vilsack as the director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) since May 6, 2012. Since 2017 I’ve had the privilege of working under President Trump and Secretary Sonny Perdue’s leadership.

NIFA has supported the goals of both administrations and helped develop the innovations and knowledge needed to promote the American farming enterprise, and helped nurture the workforce that supports the same. The agency is on an excellent trajectory and will continue to promote the needed research, Extension, and education across our great nation and ensure its global preeminence.

My six year term ends May 5, 2018.

On July 1, 2018, I will embark on the next phase of my career as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, where I’ll oversee 162 universities and colleges in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll be based out of Seattle.

I look forward to working with you through the next few weeks.

I want to thank you, my NIFA colleagues, for your support and for what you do in support of our nation’s food and agricultural enterprise, and wish you the best.

Sonny Ramaswamy

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CFDA Changes to CFDA 10.500!

Effective Fiscal Year (FY) 2019, capacity and competitive extension programs will see a change in their Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) number. This change is being made to provide individual programs a unique CFDA. The change in CFDA numbers will be effective for awards made on or after Oct. 1, 2018.  Grants awarded prior to FY 2019 grants will retain CFDA Number 10.500 until the grants expire. A memorandum providing background for this change, as well as action steps needed to be taken by NIFA grantees prior to Oct. 1, 2018, can be found on the NIFA website. If you have any questions, please email:

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National Extension and Research Administrative Officers Conference

Michigan State University is hosting the 2018 National Extension Research Administrative Officers Conference in Grand Rapids, April 22-25. This year's theme, "Great Lakes, Great State: Endless Possibilities,” showcases all that the Mitten and West Michigan has to offer.

NERAOC will feature learning tracks on diversity and inclusion, finance/capacity funds, grants, HR/organizational development, minority-serving, and program reporting and accountability. The conference will strengthen professional development, create information sharing opportunities, and provide networking time with colleagues from across the nation. Don't forget to register for NERAOC.

News for You

Systems Approach for Soybeans

The Need for a Systems Approach for Soybeans

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is making U.S. soybean farmers and exporters aware of a new procedure to comply with China’s phytosanitary import requirements. The new procedure, which applies to both bulk and container shipments of raw, unprocessed soybeans to China, went into effect Jan. 1.

 In 2016, China put in place a new grain import law to keep invasive weeds and other plant pests from entering their country. In 2017, they informed USDA that U.S. grain shipments, particularly soybeans, did not comply with the new law. They specifically cited increased detections of weed seeds. These weed seeds threaten U.S. access to China’s soybean market.

Soybeans are critical to the U.S. economy. Approximately 1 in 3 bushels of U.S. soybean are shipped to China, making it the United States’ largest market for this commodity. In 2017, this export was valued at $12.4 billion, which is approximately 91 percent by value of all U.S. grains shipped to China.

A Systems Approach for U.S. Soybean is a suite of recommended best practices that can help reduce weed seeds in soybeans on farm, at U.S. grain elevators, and at the point of export. APHIS worked with U.S. industry groups, other USDA agencies, and academia to develop the approach, which includes recommendations for integrated weed management, harvesting, and handling. 

If you have questions or would like additional information about the systems approach or the impact of weed seeds on grain trade, contact George Galasso, APHIS national trade director for grain at (301) 851-2050 or by email. For more information about specific recommended weed management practices, contact Dr. Wendy Jin, APHIS associate executive director at (919) 855-7430 or by email.


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Making Data Machine-Readable

The National Agricultural Library’s Ag Data Commons continues its monthly webinar series with “Making Data Machine-Readable” April 24, at 1 p.m. EST.

The Ag Data Commons is the catalog for USDA Research, Education, and Economics mission area funded research data. Webinars cover a variety of topics relevant to ag research data "Introduction to the Ag Data Commons" webinars introduce researchers to use the Ag Data Commons interface. Other webinars will feature topics related to digital data curation and preservation.

Refer to the Ag Data Commons News section for more details, including a schedule of upcoming webinars and join instructions. Note each webinar will have a different join code.

NAL is eager to hear from our customers about their reactions to the webinar series. Please feel free to send your comments and questions to: