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You are here:Home / Newsroom / Newsletters / NIFA Updates / NIFA Update – October 24, 2012

NIFA Update — October 24, 2012

NIFA Update, from the Office of the Director, is a biweekly newsletter for research, education, and Extension partners at land-grant universities and other cooperating institutions.


  • NIFA Releases FY 2013 AFRI Foundational RFA
  • Review of Nutrition Education Best Practices
  • 2012 HSI New Project Director’s Training Conference
  • NIFA Awards 14 Grants Supporting Research and Marketing of Organic Agriculture
  • USDA Scientists Collaborate with Global Researchers to Advance the Mapping of the Barley Genome
  • USDA Announces Nation's Sixth Regional Biofuels System, Meant to Spur Innovation and Job Creation in the Northeast
  • NIFA in the News
  • NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications



  • USDA Hosts Symposium for Military Veterans on Access to Agricultural Credit



  • NCSARE Holds Professional Development Conference


Awards and Recognition

  • NEAFCS Presents Highest Honor to Crocoll
  • Elrod Receives eXtension Champion Award

  • Next issue of NIFA Update is November 7

NIFA Releases FY 2013 AFRI Foundational RFA

The Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) 2013 Foundational Program Request for Application (RFA) was released October 15. This funding opportunity supports research, education, and Extension in fundamental and applied food and agricultural sciences critical for solving current and future societal challenges. In FY 2013, NIFA plans to award $136 million to support the AFRI Foundational Program.

The AFRI Foundational Program addresses six priority areas. The areas include:  plant health and production and plant products; animal health and production and animal products; food safety, nutrition, and health; renewable energy, natural resources, and environment; agriculture systems and technology; and agriculture economics and rural communities.

AFRI is NIFA’s flagship competitive grants program and is funded at $264 million in FY 2012. AFRI will make awards in four other challenge areas—food safety, global food security, climate variability, and sustainable bioenergy—and through the foundational and fellowship programs. The AFRI challenge areas will continue to support societal challenge areas where research, education, and Extension can achieve significant and measurable outcomes. Visit NIFA’s website to view the Foundational Program RFA and other RFAs in the AFRI program.

Review of Nutrition Education Best Practices

NIFA has entered into an interagency agreement with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to support a review of nutrition education best practices and creation of an inventory for the SNAP-Ed Connection Resource Finder, an online searchable database. This effort will address the concern that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) models are not being transferred well enough from community to community. Colorado State University Extension was selected to lead this 12-month, $272,272. Susan Baker, associate professor and Extension specialist for the and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and SNAP-Ed, program area leader at Colorado State, will serve as project director. Contact Helen Chipman, national program leader for food and nutrition education for low-income populations in NIFA’s Division of Nutrition, for more program information.

2012 HSI New Project Director’s Training Conference

The 2012 Hispanic-serving institutions new project directors held their training conference on October 17-19. Irma A. Lawrence, national program leader for the NIFA Hispanic-Serving Institutions Education Grants Program, led the event. During training, participants from 16 institutions located in 4 states and Puerto Rico discussed such topics as food safety, agro terrorism, climate change, green energy, natural resources, and water quality. The directors visited the National Science Foundation and held a poster presentation at USDA’s Whitten Building Patio.

NIFA Awards 14 Grants Supporting Research and Marketing of Organic Agriculture

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 – NIFA has awarded $19 million to research and Extension programs to help organic producers and processors grow and market high-quality organic agricultural products.

“America’s organic farmers rely on quality science to keep their operations profitable and successful,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “These grants will give our organic farmers the skills and tools they need to be competitive and continue producing abundant and high-quality crops.”

The grants include more than $14 million in 2012 grants through the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI). This program focuses on helping producers and processors who have already adopted organic standards to grow and market high-quality organic agricultural products. OREI’s priority concerns include biological, physical, and social sciences – with an emphasis on research and outreach that assist farmers and ranchers with whole farm planning. Visit the NIFA Newsroom to read the full release.

USDA Scientists Collaborate with Global Researchers to Advance the Mapping of the Barley Genome

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 – In a major advance that will unlock the benefits of mapping the barley genome—one of the world's most important cereal crops—work conducted and supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in collaboration with researchers around the world has resulted in the most advanced sequencing of the barley genome to date, as reported in the journal Nature.

The advance will give researchers the tools to produce higher yields, improve pest and disease resistance, and enhance nutritional value of barley. Past genomic research supported by USDA has provided similar benefits to crops such as tomato and corn, and helped improve cattle breeding and the productivity of dairy cows.

Along with project investigators Timothy Close and Stefano Lonardi at the University of California–Riverside and Gary Muehlbauer at the University of Minnesota—supported by grants from USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture—and Agricultural Research Service scientists Roger Wise and Jesse Poland, together with scientists from 19 other organizations around the world, make up the International Barley Sequencing Consortium. Visit the NIFA Newsroom to read the full release.

USDA Announces Nation's Sixth Regional Biofuels System, Meant to Spur Innovation and Job Creation in the Northeast

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 16 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack awarded The Pennsylvania State University a 5-year research grant valued at roughly $10 million to develop biomass supply chains for the production of liquid transportation and aviation biofuels in the Northeast. This is the sixth such award made through USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) aimed at developing regional, renewable energy markets, generating rural jobs, and decreasing America's dependence on foreign oil. In September 2011, the Secretary announced five major AFRI grants for the formation of five regional systems in the Pacific Northwest, the Northwest, Northern states, Southern states, and the Southeast, valued at $136 million. The announcement underscores USDA’s support for public and private research in building the framework for a competitively-priced, American-made biofuels industry in every major American region.

Vilsack also highlighted how USDA is working with federal partners (the Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Navy, and the Federal Aviation Administration) to improve America’s energy security and provide sustainable jobs in communities across the country. Currently, USDA, DOE, and Navy are investing up to $510 million in partnership with the private sector to produce advanced drop-in aviation and marine biofuels to power military and commercial transportation. Visit the NIFA Newsroom to read the full release.

NIFA in the News


NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications

Funding Opportunity

Closing Date


Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program

November 28, 2012

Jane M. Clary

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Food Safety

December 5, 2012

Jeanette Thurston

Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases

December 5, 2012

Peter Johnson

National Robotics Initiative: The Realization of Co-Robots Acting in Direct Support of Individuals and Groups

December 11, 2012

Daniel Schmoldt

AFRI-Foundational Program: Animal Health and Production and Animal Products

January 9, 2013

Mark A. Mirando

Secondary Education, Two-Year Postsecondary Education, and Agriculture in the K-12 Classroom Challenge Grants Program

January 18, 2013

Gregory Smith

AFRI-Foundational Program: Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health

February 6, 2013

D. Ramkishan Rao

Higher Education Challenge Grants Program

February 8, 2013

Gregory Smith

AFRI-Foundational Program: Agriculture Systems and Technology

February 13, 2013

Daniel Schmoldt

Hispanic-Serving Institutions Education Grants Program

February 18, 2013

Irma Lawrence

AFRI-Foundational Program: Plant Health and Production and Plant Products

February 18, 2013

Ann Lichens-Park

AFRI-Foundational Program: Renewable Energy, Natural Resources, and Environment

February 21, 2013

Nancy Cavallaro

AFRI-Foundational Program: Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities

May 22, 2013

Robbin Shoemaker

NIFA advertises all of its funding opportunities through “Find Grant Opportunities” on the website. This site is searchable and contains summary information on all federal funding opportunities with links to the full announcements. Users can search announcements by topic, funding agency, and date, as well as subscribe to an email notification service based on these parameters.

USDA Hosts Symposium for Military Veterans on Access to Agricultural Credit

KEARNEYSVILLE, W.Va., Oct. 10 – Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Karis Gutter led a symposium that offers U.S. military veterans information on agricultural credit as part of USDA's continuing efforts to expand opportunities for military families. Gutter, a U.S. Marine Corps reservist, along with the Jefferson County Development Authority of West Virginia and the Farmer Veteran Coalition, shared resources on USDA programs, grants, loans, and small business contracts with service members who want to start their own rural business, farm, or ranch.

The Kearneysville symposium provided veterans with financial and business planning information, including Farm Service Agency farm loan programs and a newly proposed microloan program. The microloan program aims to help small and family operations progress through their start-up years with needed resources as they build capacity, increase equity, and eventually graduate to commercial credit.

USDA also offers grants programs that support educational programs tailored to meet the particular needs and abilities of returning veterans. NIFA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) makes it possible to fill that gap in training. At the University of Arkansas, for example, Dan Donoghue used BFRDP funds to develop internships, workshops and online courses that focus on the needs of veterans interested in pursuing farming. The workshops, hosted in collaboration with the Farmer-Veteran Coalition and the National Center for Appropriate Technology, give veterans and their families’ basic and practical on-farm skills for poultry and livestock production, as well as networking opportunities for veterans from all around the country. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.


NCSARE Holds Professional Development Conference

The North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program kicked off a 2-year initiative on carbon, energy, and climate with a conference held September 26-28 at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Biological Station. The 120 participants were primarily Extension staff from the North Central region but also included Natural Resources Conservation Service staff, farmers, and representatives of the other three regional SARE programs. This professional development conference included presentations from leading scientists on climate and energy and hands-on workshops that covered practical approaches for soil carbon testing, cover crop planting, bioenergy processing, weather/climate data interpretation, and communication. The Extension staff trained at the conference will now organize workshops and field programs for farmers, ranchers, and other agriculturalists in their states. Well over 1,000 people are expected to participate in the follow-up training events that will help farmers respond to evolving challenges with innovative and sustainable management practices. Contact Rob Myers, North Central SARE professional development program coordinator and regional director for Extension programs, for more information about the initiative.

NEAFCS Presents Highest Honor to Crocoll

Dr. Caroline Crocoll, Director of NIFA’s Division of Family and Consumer Sciences, received the 2012 Friend of NEAFCS Award. Initiated in 2005, the Friend of NEAFCS Award is the highest honor bestowed by the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS) in recognition of an individual or organization who has made significant contributions to Extension Family and Consumer Science education programs. The award was presented to Crocoll at the NEAFCS Conference in Columbus, OH, at the annual awards banquet.

Elrod Receives eXtension Champion Award

Brent Elrod, national program leader for strategic partnerships in NIFA’s Division of Family and Consumer Sciences, received the 2012 eXtension Champion Award. Initiated in 2009, the Champion Award is the highest honor bestowed by eXtension in recognition of an individual who has been instrumental in the creation and development of eXtension. The award was presented at the National eXtension Conference in Oklahoma City, OK. 

The next NIFA issue is planned for November 7. Submit news items to: by November 1. If you have questions about Update, please contact the Editor: Judy Rude, public affairs specialist, NIFA Communications Staff.

To subscribe or unsubscribe to this newsletter, please send an e-mail message to Judy Rude. In the body of the message, type: subscribe nifa-update OR unsubscribe nifa-update. Back issues of NIFA Update are available on the NIFA website.

Sonny Ramaswamy, Director

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Questions? Comments? Last Updated: 10/24/2012