As 2019 comes to a close and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) celebrates our tenth year (see this USDA blog for more on NIFA’s history), we reflect on our successes of agricultural research, education, and Extension (also referred to as the Cooperative Extension System) and our endless endeavor to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. With the 2018 Farm Bill signed into law late December 2018, NIFA diligently worked to implement new Farm Bill provisions, as well as carry out existing programs that were reauthorized and subsequently funded by appropriations.
The Farm Bill made several changes for the 1994 land-grant universities (LGUs), also known as federally recognized tribal colleges and universities. Red Lake Nation College in Red Lake, Minnesota was added as a 1994 and NIFA has already welcomed them into our 1994 LGU family by visiting their college to discuss NIFA and eligible programs. 1994s that offer an associate's degree or a bachelor’s degree in forestry were made eligible entities for the McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Research Program and NIFA has worked with respective governors of Minnesota and Montana to implement this provision. The Farm Bill also made 1994s eligible for the Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP). NIFA will solicit written stakeholder feedback through the Federal Register Notice process as we undertake these FRTEP changes. More information is available on NIFA’s tribal programs.
Additionally, the 2018 Farm Bill authorized several changes for 1890 LGUs, including creating a new Scholarships for Students at 1890 Institutions program. The 1890 land-grant institutions are historically black universities that were established under the Second Morrill Act of 1890. NIFA issued the Scholarships for Students at 1890 Institutions Request for Applications (RFA) in September, with a November deadline for applications. The program will provide scholarships to support recruiting, engaging, retaining, mentoring, and training of undergraduate students at the 1890 land-grant institutions, resulting in baccalaureate degrees in the food and agricultural sciences and related fields. In November 2019, NIFA issued the Centers of Excellence at 1890 Institutions RFA, with a January 2020 application deadline. The intent of this program is to provide support for Centers of Excellence originally established in 2015 in conjunction with the 125th Anniversary of the Second Morrill Act of 1890, as per language in the FY2019 Consolidated Appropriations Act. More information is available on NIFA’s 1890 programs.
NIFA’s flagship competitive grants program, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), put a call out for Sustainable Agricultural Systems (SAS) proposals. The Sustainable Agricultural Systems RFA requested applications focused on a systems approach that would significantly improve the supply of abundant, affordable, safe, nutritious, and accessible food, while also providing sustainable opportunities for expansion of the bioeconomy through novel animal, crop, and forest products and supporting technologies. In September 2019, NIFA announced $77.8 million in SAS research for eight projects that tap into the creative intellect from 19 universities and scientific experts from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. A list of the leading universities in Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin, and their innovative projects is available on the NIFA website.
NIFA applies an integrated approach of research, education, and Extension to ensure that groundbreaking discoveries in agriculture-related sciences and technologies reach those who can put them into practice, ultimately benefiting America’s farmers, ranchers, producers, and consumers. To learn more about NIFA funded impacts, or success stories, visit this NIFA webpage. With a long tradition of strong collaboration with our grantees, partners, stakeholders, other Federal agencies, and the Congress, NIFA looks forward to continuing these partnerships as we embark on our next decade.