NIFA Update Sept. 26

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                          Sept. 26, 2018

Making a Difference

Shelby Chambers. Photo by NC A&T State University
Shelby Chambers participated in an aging-in-place study, which focuses on elderly homeowners. Photo by NC A&T State University

Identifying Challenges for Elderly Renters

The number of elderly renters in the U.S. is expected to double to 12 million in 2030 as retirees remain in their homes, a trend that can yield substantial savings but also presents challenges. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T) researchers studied the obstacles faced by low-income elderly renters who are aging-in-place and found that these seniors often struggle with unaffordable housing, unsupportive home environments, and a lack of formal and informal resources. Identifying these challenges will help local, state and federal agencies develop practical strategies to support aging-in-place renters. Read more about this NC A&T research project.


USDA, Cooperative Extension, and APLU Award Top Honors in Extension Excellence and Diversity

Recognizing visionary leadership and diversity in educational programming, USDA-NIFA, Cooperative Extension, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) announced that Lesia Oesterreich from Iowa State University will receive the 2018 Excellence in Extension Award and Ronald Cox, Jr., from Oklahoma State University will receive the National Extension Diversity Award. Both awards, along with Regional Excellence in Extension Awards, will be presented at a ceremony on Nov. 11 in New Orleans, Louisiana during APLU’s 131st Annual Meeting. Read the full NIFA announcement

Lesia Oesterreich Iowa State University image

Lesia Oesterreich serves as a Family Life Extension State Specialist at Iowa State University where her educational programs help teachers and caregivers significantly increase understanding in child development, early learning, positive behavior reinforcement, nutrition, as well as health and safety practices. Her efforts have secured over $8 million in extramural funding to strengthen early childhood programs. These programs are accessed by over 36,000 early childhood educators each year who teach an estimated 165,000 children annually. When rural and urban Iowans drop their kids off at the school or daycare center, the adults that are taking care of them are better qualified to do so thanks to Oesterreich’s efforts.

Ronald Cox, Jr. Oklahoma State University image

Ronald Cox, Jr., is an Associate Research Professor and Cooperative Extension Specialist at Oklahoma State University. Cox’s research focuses on how environment, family, and individual characteristics interact to create risk and resilience factors among Latino immigrant adolescents. This led to the development and evaluation of the ¡Unidos Se Puede! (United We Can!) program. ¡Unidos Se Puede! has impacted approximately 500 families and has been shown to increase areas such as parental involvement in school, youth academic achievement and self-efficacy, and reducing negative behaviors, including drug use. To further serve Latino families in Oklahoma, Cox has gathered or translated over 1,000 Spanish-language fact sheets and distributed them to social service agencies serving Latinos. He has launched a weekly Spanish-language radio program that reaches 20,000 listeners and started a health fair for Spanish speakers that provides health screenings and advice to approximately 600 families each year.

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NIFA Listens Coming to a Location Near You

NIFA is accepting input from stakeholders regarding research, extension, and education priorities in food and agriculture. A series of four in-person listening sessions, hosted in different regions across the country, and submission of written comments are two ways to share your thoughts and ideas. Stakeholder input received from both methods will be treated equally.

The 2018 NIFA listening opportunity allows stakeholders to provide feedback on the following questions:

  • When considering all of agriculture, what is the greatest challenge that should be addressed through NIFA’s research, education, and extension programs?
  • In your field, what is the most-needed breakthrough in science/technology that would advance your agricultural enterprise? Breakthroughs result in transformative changes in knowledge, technology, or behavior.
  • What is your top priority in food and agricultural research, extension, or education that NIFA should address?

NIFA wants to hear from you about priorities and opportunities in agricultural sciences. Remember to RSVP if you are planning to attend a listening session in person.  

News for You

Bioplastics are all around us. Learn more about bioplastics at

A New Industrial Revolution for Plastics

Biobased bioplastics are plastics made from renewable resources, agricultural feedstocks such as corn, soybeans, or sugarcane. The starches, oils, and sugars from these feedstocks are extracted, modified, and used as the chemical building blocks for these new bioplastic products. This is valuable because these feedstocks are sources of “new” carbon because of their renewability. Petroleum/oil-based products contain “old” carbon. The amount of new carbon in a product can be an important measurement for the product’s sustainability. Read the full USDA story.

USDA Messages

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USDA Approves North Carolina WIC Flexibilities in Wake of Hurricane Florence

North Carolina will be able to better serve participants through the USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in the wake of Hurricane Florence, thanks to operational flexibilities approved for their use by USDA. The state will be able to issue benefits remotely, waive some nutrition education requirements in places where offices are closed, and replace September food benefits that were damaged or lost during the hurricane. Read the full USDA press release

Award Notification

NIFA Invests over $18 Million to Grow Beginning Farmers and Ranchers in America

NIFA recently awarded 36 Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) grants that will lead to creating and sustaining beginning farmers and ranchers in America. Among the projects funded, teams of experts plan to use educational approaches to improve land access, business planning, mentorship, and farm management in growing new and beginning farmers and ranchers. The primary goal of NIFA’s BFRDP is to increase the number, success, and sustainability of beginning farmers and ranchers in the U.S., by providing them with knowledge, skills, and tools needed to make informed decisions. Learn more about BFRDP regular project grants and the educational enhancement team project grants.