NIFA Update April 3

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                            April 3, 2019

Making a Difference

Image of two heads of corn, courtesy of University of Florida.

Image of two heads of corn, courtesy of University of Florida.

UF Scientists Work to Breed Better Tasting Sweet Corn

University of Florida (UF) scientists plan to use a $7.3 million, four-year grant to find the genetic traits that will make sweet corn taste even better, last longer, and grow better across the nation. Mark Settles, a professor of horticultural sciences at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), will lead the project. “What we want to do is find those genes that make sweet corn a tasty vegetable and be able to then use those genes in traditional breeding,” Settles said. 

UF/IFAS researchers will get help from scientists at Iowa State University, the University of Wisconsin, Washington State University, and NIFA. Read the full University of Florida blog.

NIFA funds this research through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative.


Industrial hemp, image courtesy of Getty Images.

USDA Hemp Production Program and Industrial Hemp Research

With passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has been designated as the lead USDA agency to administer the new USDA Hemp Production Program. AMS is in the process of working toward developing regulations to implement the 2018 Farm Bill provisions. It is expected that the final rule will be implemented by the end of calendar year 2019. Until the final rule is implemented, all rules and restrictions must be followed per Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill. In other words, no one should try to implement the 2018 Farm Bill production provisions before the final USDA rule is established. Learn more on NIFA’s website.

NERAOC 2019 Denver, Colorado - Graphic image

National Extension and Research Administrative Officers Conference

Colorado State University is hosting the 2019 National Extension Research Administrative Officers Conference in Denver, April 14-17. This year's theme, "Elevating Our Communities,” will highlight the community of NERAOC, the community of Land Grant Institutions, the community of the partnership with NIFA, and all other communities. Through engaging presentations, hands-on sessions, and round table discussions, NERSOC will strengthen professional development, information sharing, and networking with colleagues from across the nation.

NERAOC 2019 features learning tracks on diversity and inclusion, finance/capacity funds, grants, HR/organizational development, minority-serving, and program reporting and accountability. NIFA presentation topics will include the 2018 Farm Bill, Capacity Grant Update/New Budget Implementation Plan, Compensation Reporting, REEport Plan of Work Integration Initiative, A Tour of Civil Rights Reviews, Improving Customer Experience, and more. Register for NERAOC 2019. Onsite registrations will be available at the registration desk April 14 at 2 p.m.

News for You

University of Georgia Extension graphic

Outreach for UGA Associate Dean for Extension 

The University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) and UGA Extension seek a nationally recognized leader in university outreach, extension and related scholarly endeavors to serve as Associate Dean for Extension and Outreach with rank of Public Service Associate or Senior Public Service Associate, untenured (non-tenure track). Learn more about the UGA Extension outreach.


webinar graphic from YouTube.

Higher Education Multicultural Scholars Program 

NIFA will hold a Higher Education Multicultural Scholars Program (MSP) Fiscal Year 2019 informational webinar April 11, at 1 p.m. EDT. No need to register, just follow the MSP webinar link to join. Call-in number 1-888-844-9904, access code 928 107 9. Contact NIFA National Program leader, Dr. Ariela Zycherman below for more information. Live close captioning available, event code 3995179.

Award Announcements

NIFA Invests in Higher Education

NIFA recently awarded 15 Higher Education Challenge (HEC) grants to enhance the quality of instruction at higher education intuitions and to increase the number and diversity of students who pursue and complete a postsecondary degree in the food, agricultural, natural resources, and human sciences (FANH). NIFA’s Higher Education Challenge Grants Program supports colleges and universities in their efforts to educate the next generation of the food and agriculture scientific and professional workforce. HEC seeks to improve formal, baccalaureate or master’s degree level FANH education along with first professional degree-level education in veterinary medicine. HEC projects improve the economic health and viability of communities through the development of degree programs that emphasize new and emerging employment opportunities.

NIFA Invests $3 Million on Technologies to Advance Crop Breeding

NIFA recently awarded 10 Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) to speed the development of new crop varieties. EAGER fosters the development of breakthrough technologies in crop breeding and functional genomics through a joint partnership between NIFA, the National Science Foundation, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council of the United Kingdom. NIFA awards address barriers to improving crop varieties, such as producing hybrid seed, understanding epigenetic inheritance, introducing genetic variation from wild relatives, induction of double haploids, and improved delivery systems for gene editing and plant transformation. Funding is made through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative which address challenges in food and agricultural sciences through research, extension, and education. Five EAGER award projects are with the International Wheat Yield Partnership aimed at increasing global wheat yields by 50 percent in the next 20 years. For a full list of awards, see NIFA EAGER.

RFA Grant Announcements

AgrAbility - Assistive Technology Program for Farmers with Disabilities

The AgrAbility program increases the likelihood that farmers, ranchers, farm workers and farm family members with disabilities will experience success in agricultural production. The program supports projects between State Cooperative Extension System and private, non-profit disability organizations who work in partnership to provide agricultural education and assistance directed at accommodating disability in farm operations for individuals with disabilities, and their families, who engage in farming and farm-related occupations. Learn more about the AgrAbility request for applications.

Higher Education Challenge Grants Program

Higher Education Challenge (HEC) Grants Program will:
(1) address a state, regional, national, or international educational need;
(2) involve a creative or non-traditional approach toward addressing that need that can serve as a model to others;
(3) encourage and facilitate better working relationships in the university science and education community, as well as between universities and the private sector, to enhance program quality and supplement available resources; and
(4) result in benefits that will likely transcend the project duration.
Learn more about the HEC request for applications.

Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Fields (WAMS) Program

WAMS supports research, education/teaching, and extension projects to increase participation by women and underrepresented minorities from rural areas in science technology engineering and math. NIFA intends this program to address educational needs within broadly defined areas of food, agriculture, natural resources, and human (FANH) sciences. Applications recommended for funding must highlight and emphasize the development of a competent and qualified workforce in the FAHN sciences. WAMS-funded projects improve the economic health and viability of rural communities by developing research and extension initiatives that focus on new and emerging employment opportunities in STEM occupations. Learn more about the WAMS request for applications.

Smith-Lever Special Needs Competitive Grants Program

The Cooperative Extension System, within the United States and territories, repeatedly serves as the trusted community organization that enables families, communities, and businesses to successfully prepare for, respond to and cope with disaster losses and critical incidents. NIFA intends to fund special needs projects to implement applied scientific programs that serve public needs in preparation for, during and after local or regional emergency situations. Learn more about the Smith-Lever Special Needs Competitive Grants request for applications.

Higher Education Multicultural Scholars Program

The Higher Education Multicultural Scholars Program (MSP) is a competitive undergraduate scholarship grant program that increases the multicultural diversity of food and agricultural scientific and professional workforce, and provides competitive grants to colleges and universities thereby advancing the educational achievement of all Americans. Learn more about the MSP request for applications.