NIFA Update March 13

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                          March 13, 2019

Making a Difference

A gene (red and white) bound to a carbon nanotube can easily diffuse into plant cells. Graphic by Ella Marushchenko.

With Nanotubes, Genetic Engineering in Plants is Easy-Peasy

Inserting or tweaking genes in plants is more art than science, but a new technique developed by University of California, Berkeley, scientists could make genetically engineering any type of plant, in particular, gene editing with CRISPR-Cas9, simple and quick. To deliver a gene, researchers graft it onto a carbon nanotube, which is tiny enough to slip easily through a plant’s tough cell wall. Nanotubes are highly successful at delivering a gene into the nucleus and also into the chloroplast, a structure in the cell that is even harder to target using current methods. This work was supported in part by the USDA. Read the full University of California Berkeley article

A gene (red and white) bound to a carbon nanotube can easily diffuse into plant cells, where it is expressed as if it were the cell’s own gene. Graphic by Ella Marushchenko.


NIFA Director Scott Angle (left) learns about potato research with David Douches. Program. Photo by MSU.

NIFA Director Visits Michigan State University

Angle met with MSU leaders from AgBioResearch, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, College of Veterinary Medicine and MSU Extension to learn more about agribusiness, food and environment factors relevant in the state of Michigan. From 2014-2017, NIFA awarded $173 million in grants to Michigan State University in areas including rural development, drone technology to tailor water and fertilizer strategies, dairy management and nutritional sciences, field crops webinar training, blueberry varieties and breeding, floriculture lighting, and plant diagnostic facilities. Read the full Michigan State University story.

NIFA Director Scott Angle (left) learns about potato research with David Douches, director of the MSU Potato Breeding and Genetics Program. Photo courtesy of MSU.

Laurie Meier

NIFA’s Senior Operations Officer

Laurie Meier is NIFA’s new Senior Operations Officer. In this position, Meier will serve as an operations resource and an expert in ensuring the effective and efficient management of NIFA operations, information technology systems, communications, budget, building management, and physical security in support of NIFA’s program and scientific missions.

Prior to joining NIFA, Meier served as a management and program analyst with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. She has over 10 years of experience directing operations functions within the Federal government, including space and facilities management, occupational safety and health, physical and personnel security, continuity of operations, and emergency preparedness. Meier also served as senior advisor on budget and financial management, information technology, communications and outreach, and contracting and acquisition. She has over 18 years of experience leading and coaching others to achieve high-level performance. Meier received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of North Dakota.

USDA Message

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USDA Research, Education, and Economics Mission Area to Host Farm Bill Listening Session

USDA’s Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area will host a listening session March 21, at USDA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The purpose of the listening session is for REE to hear from stakeholders and other interested members of the public about the programs that are being implemented or revised by REE as required by the 2018 Farm Bill. REE consists of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Economic Research Service (ERS), National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS). 

We invite you to participate in the listening session in-person or by submitting written comments to the Federal Register URL will be listed online at

Please refer to the name of the ARS, ERS, NASS, NIFA, or OCS program that  you want to comment or provide input on, in your comments and the relevant section number in the 2018 Farm Bill. In your oral or written comments, feel free to include provide anything else that may be helpful to USDA.

The purpose of the listening session is for REE to hear from the public; this is not a discussion with REE officials or a question and answer session. The listening session will be transcribed and posted online within one month, on the REE website. Written comments will be made publicly available online at

Listening Session Information

  • Pre-registration is required to attend the listening session.
  • To attend the listening session you must register by 5 p.m. (EDT) March 20 by emailing
  • If you are attending the listening session there is an expectation that the organization you are representing will be presenting oral comments.
  • Attendance is limited to three individuals per organization; all individuals must register, but all three are not required to speak.
  • Individual speakers providing oral comments will be limited to 3–5 minutes each.
  • In addition to presenting orally, you are encouraged, but not required to submit written comments to the Federal Register by 5 p.m. (EDT), March 29.

Written Comments

  • If you are unable to attend the listening session, written comments are welcome and are due by 5 p.m. (EDT), March 29, to the Federal Register. URL will be listed online at
  • All written comments received will be publicly available.
  • Stakeholder input received orally and in writing will be treated equally.

Attending Sessions

Research, Education, and Economics Farm Bill Listening Session
March 21, at 1 p.m.
USDA Headquarters
Washington, D.C.  

Exact room information will be provided once you register.

For further information/registration contact

RFA Grant Announcements

Minor Crop Pest Management Program Interregional Research Project #4 (IR-4)

The IR-4 program enables the crop protection industry to provide safe, effective, and economical crop protection products for growers and consumers of minor/specialty crops. The crop protection industry cannot justify the costs associated with the research and development, registration, production, and marketing of crop protection products for minor/specialty crops due to the smaller market base and limited sales potential. The IR-4 program provides assistance needed to ensure that new and more effective crop protection products are developed and made available to minor/specialty crop producers. Read the full IR-4 program request for applications.