NIFA Update - Sept. 30, 2020

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                September 30, 2020

New Integrated Reporting System

Parag Chitnis, Acting NIFA Director

I am pleased to announce that NIFA will release the first part of our new integrated reporting system, which uses advanced technology to support streamlining the grants management and reporting processes. The NIFA Reporting System will eventually be home to all research (competitive and capacity) and extension programs, and it will enable NIFA and our land-grant partners to more fully "tell the story" of how we are working together to advance agricultural research and extension across the nation. This new system is an excellent example of how the new NIFA is focused on service to our partners.

The current phase of work will bring AREERA1 research and extension activities together for the first time in a centralized reporting portal. Institutions will have dashboard access to manage user roles. Another dashboard will allow designees to manage your state’s critical issues.

This first release offers Cooperative Extension the means to describe their programs in greater detail and offers the expanded format requested for the Plan of Work. NIFA designed the Extension module with representatives from the Land-Grant University System at the table, providing valuable input and guidance. For several months, the Extension Working Group worked with NIFA staff to develop a user-friendly product to collect quality information to serve both NIFA and our partners, while streamlining the overall effort.

The NIFA team now has begun similar work with the Research Working Group to streamline reporting requirements for Hatch, Hatch Multistate, and Evans-Allen. REEport will remain unchanged until the new system is completed and fully operable. Additional reporting guidance will be provided at monthly webinars and on NIFA’s website. If you would like to receive invitations to the project’s monthly webinars, please send an email to

Thank you for your support as we work to complete the new integrated system to meet your needs and expectations. Please continue to share your ideas with our team so we can continue to effectively serve you.

Parag Chitnis
Acting Director


Image of an automated robot working in a greenhouse, courtesy of Getty Images.

NIFA Invests Over $7 Million in Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Other Cyberinformatics Research

NIFA recently awarded 12 grants totaling over $7 million to initiate research on big data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and predictive technologies needed to keep U.S. agriculture on the leading edge of food and agricultural production. These grants are awarded through the USDA-NIFA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Food and Agriculture Cyberinformatics and Tools (FACT). 

“Big data and artificial intelligence will increasingly play a vital role in the future of agricultural technologies,” said Parag Chitnis, acting director of USDA-NIFA. “As we work to realize precision nutrition for consumers and enhance farmer profitability and agricultural sustainability, these predictive technologies will keep research and development moving quickly to provide the tools needed for success.” For more information, read the NIFA release.

Image of an automated robot working in a greenhouse, courtesy of Getty Images.

USDA news radio graphic

Is Home Cooking Making a Comeback?

The unprecedented events of this year have caused us to make some drastic changes in what we do and how we do it. This includes changes in our kitchens. USDA’s Gary Crawford talks with Kansas State University Extension food expert Lisa Martin about the return of home cooking on this edition of Agriculture USA. For more information, listen to the USDA broadcast.

NIFA flower identifier

NIFA Career Opportunities

We are hiring! Remember to check out NIFA's Career Opportunities webpage, where there is a direct link to all open positions. You can also explore NIFA jobs at the website. Current openings in Washington, D.C. and Kansas City, Missouri:

Equal Opportunity Specialist, GS 9-11
Closing date: 10/05/2020

News for You

Lonely road down rural America, image courtesy of Unsplash.

University of Tennessee to Lead Regional Effort to Battle Farmer, Rancher Stress

Farm and ranch closures, land forfeitures, labor issues and more contribute to rates of suicide in rural communities, which measure twice that of urban areas. To address this desperate problem, the USDA is creating the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network by funding four regional projects to improve behavioral health by providing stress management assistance for people in farming, ranching and other agriculture-related occupations, as well as assistance for their families. The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) has been chosen to coordinate the effort in the South. The three-year, $7.2 million southern region effort, funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, will span 13 states and two U.S. territories. It will include more than 50 partner organizations, from land-grant institutions to government agencies, commodity and lending groups, and nonprofit organizations. For more information, read the UTIA article.

Lonely road down rural America, image courtesy of Unsplash.

Portrait of farmers next to tomato seedlings on the field. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Michigan State University Provides Training for Beginning Latino/a Farmers

Michigan State University’s La Cosecha (a Spanish word for harvest) program, which provides training for first and next-generation Latino/a farmers in Michigan, has received a $600,000 grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). David Mota-Sanchez, an assistant professor in the MSU Department of Entomology, leads the project, which is part of NIFA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. Workshops are bilingual and include training on IPM, food safety, marketing and business, 4-H programs introducing youth to agriculture, how to access USDA programs, and pesticide education. MSU researchers, outreach specialists and other partners have been working since 2018 to empower disadvantaged Latino/a farmers using previous NIFA funding. For more information, read the Michigan State University article.

Portrait of farmers next to tomato seedlings on the field. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Beginning farmer Hank Huffman, image courtesy of Hank Huffman and USDA ARS.

New and Beginning Farmers: The Future of American Agriculture

A snapshot of the next generation of young men and women realizing their dreams of becoming full or part-time farmers reveals challenging opportunities. Some young farmers, like Hank Huffman, a 25-year-old farmer from rural eastern North Carolina, have gleaned great experiences from the generations of farmers before them. Hank, bolstered by the experience and wisdom imparted to him by his father, grandfather, and great grandfather, is now making his mark on the field of agriculture. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, there are 3.4 million farmers, ranchers, and producers in the United States. Hank is part of a collective group of young producers (those 35 years or less of age) accounting for 9 percent of the total producers. For more information, read the USDA article.

Beginning farmer Hank Huffman, image courtesy of Hank Huffman and USDA ARS.


Image of farming couple courtesy of Getty Images.

NIFA Invests More Than $53 Million to Help U.S. Farmers Prosper

NIFA recently announced grant investments of more than $53 million across three unique programs for U.S. farmers, ranchers, and military veterans to support American agriculture. “Agriculture offers promising career opportunities, particularly in farming and ranching,” said Parag Chitnis, acting NIFA director. “Federal investments in programs that help new farmers get into the business, support military veterans who are considering farming and ranching as a new career, and address serious stress-related mental health issues among farmers, are critical to ensuring our next generation of food producers are able to successfully meet the challenges facing agriculture.” For more information, read the NIFA release.

Image of farming couple courtesy of Getty Images.

Award Notification

NIFA Invests $1.2 Million to Support Agriculture and Food Science Education in Insular Areas

NIFA recently announced eight grants that strengthen food and agricultural science education in insular areas of the United States. Funding is made through NIFA’s Resident Instruction Grants Program for Institutions of Higher Education in Insular Areas (RIIA), which works to strengthen institutional educational capacities in instruction and curriculum within the food and agricultural sciences-related disciplines. This program strengthens the institutional education capacities in curriculum, improves post-secondary agricultural science education, and enhances the quality of teaching and learning, helping the insular area institutions meet their needs.


Will Wetzel, assistant professor in the Michigan State University.

Investigating the Impact of Heatwaves on Natural and Agricultural Ecosystems  

Will Wetzel, assistant professor in the Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Entomology, is researching how extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, impact various ecosystems in Michigan. A major focus of his work is on the effects of temperature variability, or the pattern of change throughout a growing season. Wetzel and fellow MSU entomologist Zsofia Szendrei were recently awarded a four-year, $455,000 grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to study how heatwaves influence pest management in potatoes. Wetzel and Szendrei’s work will focus on the Colorado potato beetle and aphids, small bugs that suck fluid from plant leaves. For more information, watch the MSU video

Tweet of the Week

A $7 million @USDA_NIFA Farm & Ranch Stress Assistance Network grant will expand farmer suicide prevention work done by Washington State University.