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NIFA Grant Programs Help Fuel Ag-related Job Boom

Posted by Scott Elliott, National Institute of Food and Agriculture in Research and Science
Nov 18, 2014

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

The overall job market may go up and down, but things are definitely looking good in agricultural, environmental, and related fields.

According to studies conducted at Purdue University, the nation is in the midst of a job creation boom with nearly 54,000 openings per year for those who hold bachelor’s or higher degree in food, renewable energy, and environmental specialties.  Most of those positions will be in business and science areas, while the remainder will be in production, education, communication, and government services.

For those considering such careers, especially for those in underrepresented communities, the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has a program that helps level the playing field for college students preparing to make career decisions.

Recently, NIFA announced the recipients of its 2014 round of grants to Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs).  Awarding 18 grants totaling $9 million, NIFA is partnering with 13 institutions in five states and Puerto Rico to help prepare their students to enter the agricultural workforce.

NIFA’s Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) Education Grant Program helps HSIs attract, retain, and graduate outstanding students to enhance the nation’s food and agricultural scientific and professional work force.  HSIs are colleges and universities with total enrollments that are 25 percent or more Hispanic.  Projects that qualify for HSI grants include those that support curriculum development, experiential learning, equipment and instruction delivery systems, and faculty development.

Last year, 48 HSIs from eight states and Puerto Rico submitted 78 applications to fund projects.  From those applications, NIFA’s competitive, peer-reviewed panel selected 19 to share in $9.2 million in funding.  About 350 students who benefitted directly from last year’s HSI grants are in line to graduate at the end of the current school year.

NIFA has produced a publication to highlight a number of students who have participated in previous HSI-funded collaborative programs, such as the one sponsored by UTSA.  Two of these students, Anabel Rodriguez and Abigail Compos, are examples:

Rodriguez, who recently earned a bachelor’s degree in plant science major from California State University – Fresno, spent two years calibrating sprayers and spraying field plots with pesticides.  She aspires to obtain a doctorate in weed science or nematology work for USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.  Campos illustrates the type of “non-agricultural” jobs that are available within the field of agriculture.  Campos, who last June earned a master’s degree in public administration from San Diego State University, learned through her internship experience about project management and various programs and services that are tied into the U.S. Forest Service and sees herself 10 years from now with a PhD program and continuing to work for USDA.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education, and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. For more information, visit

Category/Topic: Research and Science