NIFA Update - March 26, 2020

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                        March 26, 2020

Making a Difference

An urban farm in Baltimore, Maryland. Image courtesy of Edwin Remsburg Studios.

An urban farm in Baltimore, Maryland. Image courtesy of Edwin Remsburg Studios.

Creating a Sustainable Future for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and Its People

University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is collaborating with multiple universities, partners, farmers, and stakeholders from throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed region in a 5-year sustainable agriculture systems study, led by Penn State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences, and funded by a prestigious $9 million grant awarded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

This comprehensive, multi-institutional project entitled, "Thriving Agricultural Systems in Urbanized Landscapes" is an interdisciplinary framework developed to conduct practical research into sustainable agriculture practices that will mitigate environmental degradation in the Chesapeake Bay watershed while providing economic feasibility to farmers and farming communities for the long-term. Read the full University of Maryland article.

Angle's Update

J. Scott Angle, NIFA Director

On March 19, 2020, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued M-20-17 (memorandum), “Administrative Relief for Recipients and Applicants of Federal Financial Assistance Directly Impacted by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) due to Loss of Operations.” The memorandum broadens the scope of a March 9th memorandum (M-20-11) and allows Federal awarding agencies the ability to provide administrative relief in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

We are particularly concerned about institutions with faculty, staff, and students who depend on grant funding for their livelihood and are required to shelter in place. However, the OMB memo specifically states: Awarding agencies may allow recipients to continue to charge salaries and benefits to currently active Federal awards consistent with the recipients' policy of paying salaries (under unexpected or extraordinary circumstances) from all funding sources, Federal and non-Federal (Appendix A, No. 6).

OMB’s March 19th memorandum bolsters NIFA’s continued response to COVID-19 as it allows the agency to also provide flexibilities for recipient organizations affected by the loss of operational capacity. Appendix A of the memorandum details administrative relief actions and procedures Federal awarding agencies are authorized to take.

We are exploring other ways that we can support our colleagues in the important work that they do to advance science and agriculture during this unprecedented time and will continue to do so. For example, last week, NIFA granted proposal deadline extensions for some programs to provide more time to partners as they work through organizational social distancing efforts. NIFA is also exploring a process for supplementing competitive awards where increased otherwise allowable costs are required to fulfil research objects during this time.

To that end, please know that NIFA is committed to adhering to OMB’s memorandum while simultaneously working with recipient organizations to provide the right solutions as deemed appropriate and to the extent permitted by law.

Questions regarding the applicability of the memorandum’s administrative relief provisions should be directed to NIFA’s Awards Management Division at For more information, see (OMB’s M-20-17).


U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue's Video Message to Producers

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue's “Thank You” message to America’s farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers during our nation’s time of crisis. Watch the full USDA video.

Senior Advisor, Office of the Chief Scientist Jodi Williams.

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Dr. Jodi Williams

In this blog, we feature Senior Advisor for Food Safety, Nutrition, and Human Health with USDA’s Office of the Chief Scientist Dr. Jodi Williams. Her work focuses on policy development and operational planning pertaining to food safety and nutrition, and human health programs and activities. She reviews, evaluates, and critiques a broad range of policy and program management issues related to USDA’s coordinated food safety and nutrition science programs. Read the full USDA blog.

Senior Advisor, Office of the Chief Scientist Jodi Williams.

USDA graphic symbol

Secretary Perdue’s Statement on National Ag Day

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued the following statement regarding National Agriculture Day and President Donald J. Trump’s Proclamation recognizing the importance of America’s farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers:

“Our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers in America are feeding and clothing the world. Now more than ever it’s important that the American people not forget that. Our farmers are resilient, and during these uncertain times they are still working, day in and day out, to produce what’s needed for our growing population,” said Secretary Perdue. Read the full USDA press release.

News for You

Ryegrass cover crop between rows of corn stubble. Photo courtesy of Maria Villamil.

Study Shows Universally Positive Effect of Cover Crops on Soil Microbiome

Only a fraction of conventional row crop farmers grow cover crops after harvest, but a new global analysis from the University of Illinois shows the practice can boost soil microbial abundance by 27 percent. The article, “Do cover crops benefit soil microbiome? A meta-analysis of current research,” is published in Soil Biology and Biochemistry. Authors include Kim Villamil, Maria Zabaloy, and Kaiyu Guan. The research was supported by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. For more read the University of Illinois article.

Ryegrass cover crop between rows of corn stubble. Photo courtesy of Maria Villamil.

A History of Responding to Our Nation's Crises UNH video graphic.

A History of Responding to Our Nation's Crises

In this time of crisis, know that the University of New Hampshire (UNH) is among the thousands of public scientists at land-grant universities dedicated to keeping our food supply and our environment safe and secure. UNH is proud to be part of a committed community of state agricultural experiment stations that serve their state's agricultural and natural resources communities with evidenced-based research that directly improves the lives of every citizens. Learn more, watch the UNH video.

Cooperative Extension logo

Extension Resources for Extension Professionals Working Online

The purpose of this website is to provide a means through which Extension educators and administrators can share with their Cooperative Extension colleagues various resources and guides about teaching and working virtually. The current list of resources is just a beginning; it needs your additional contributions and expertise. You are encouraged to share other resources with us by sending an email to Learn more from Cooperative Extension online.

USDA FAS graphic symbol

USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service Funding Opportunity

Alignment of Pesticide Regulations and Standards in Africa funding opportunity number is USDA-FAS-10960-0700-10.-20-0009. Learn more at

Western Michigan University students Ali Bultynck, Samantha McGrath, Kyle Wade, and Alden Wichman. Image courtesy of WMU.

As we celebrate National Nutrition Month:

Food Marketing Students take First Place at National University Competition

Western Michigan University (WMU) students soared to first place against teams from 13 other universities at the 2020 National Grocers Association Student Case Competition. Their business case for the competition focused on developing ways for independent grocers to make it easy for shoppers to maximize the benefits of the NIFA’s Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, or GusNIP.

“The GusNIP program benefits low-income customers and retailers by providing an incentive to purchase healthy fruits and vegetables, but independent grocers face challenges encouraging customers to take advantage of this beneficial program,” says Greg Ferrara, National Grocers Association president and CEO. Read the full WMU news article.

Western Michigan University students Ali Bultynck, Samantha McGrath, Kyle Wade, and Alden Wichman. Image courtesy of WMU.

Funding Opportunity

Tribal Colleges Research Grants Program (TCRGP) hero image

Tribal Colleges Research Grants Program (TCRGP)

TCRGP assists 1994 Land-Grant Institutions (Tribal Colleges) in building institutional research capacity through applied projects that address student educational needs and meet community, reservation, or regional challenges. AAwards are made based on a competitive review process. Collaboration with 1862 or 1890 Land-Grant Institutions, the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, a Non-Land-Grant College of Agriculture, or at least one forestry school funded under the McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Research Program is a requirement. For more information read the full TCRGP funding opportunity.

TCRGP assists 1994 Land-Grant Tribal Colleges to build institutional research capacity. 

Tweet of the Week

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