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Posts tagged: NIFA

USDA’s Commitment to Develop Food and Agricultural Workforce of the Future

Dr. Ann Bartuska, Deputy Under Secretary for the USDA Research, Education, and Economics (REE) Mission Area, speaking at a Workshop at the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Dr. Ann Bartuska, Deputy Under Secretary for the USDA Research, Education, and Economics (REE) Mission Area, speaking at a Workshop at the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on February 10, 2016. The Workshop brought together stakeholders from universities, government, non-government organizations, and the private sector to discuss growing needs in the agricultural workforce.

Nearly 99% of farms in the United States are family operated, and they account for roughly 90% of agricultural production. With statistics like these, it’s not surprising that many people associate jobs in agriculture with small-town America, farmers and tractors, and corn fields and cattle.

While the importance of farmers cannot be overstated, the diversity of careers available in the agricultural sector is staggering and often underappreciated. According to a 2013 study funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), an average of 57,900 jobs will open every year from 2015 to 2020 and require a bachelor’s degree or higher in food, agriculture, natural resources, or environmental studies. These jobs will include a range of sectors, including management and business; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); food and biomaterials production; and education, communication, and government services.  Strikingly, it is also expected that 39% of positions will go unfilled. Read more »

Woodland Buffers Protect Amphibians, Ecosystems

Red-backed salamander

Red-backed salamanders and other amphibians are key players in ecosystem health. (iStock photo)

Forested areas that border wetlands help protect wildlife, but until recently their efficacy has been untested for most amphibian species.  Now, recently published results of a six-year study explore how the loss or reduction of amphibians could affect the ecosystem.

At the University of New Hampshire, Dr. Kimberly Babbitt and a team of graduate students conducted landscape-scale experiments that tested the impacts of forest buffer width vernal pools on population size and structure, body size and condition and population genetics of two amphibian species in the northeastern United States. A grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supported the project. Read more »

USDA Scientists Take an Organic Approach to Improving Carrots

Multi-colored carrots arranged in a circle

Colorful ARS-bred carrots, packed with healthful pigments to punch up their nutrition level. ARS photo by Stephen Ausmus.

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.

Organic carrots are coming into their own. About 14 percent of U.S.-produced carrots are now classified as organic, making carrots one of the highest ranked crops in terms of the total percentage produced organically. With production and demand increasing in recent years, organic-carrot growers need help deciding which varieties to grow. Some varieties perform well as a conventional crop, but not so well under organic conditions. While conventional growers also can fumigate to control nematodes, bacterial diseases and fungal pathogens, organic growers don’t have that option. Read more »

SBIR Grantee’s Response to Killer Beetles: SPLAT!

Mountain Lake With Pine Beetle Damaged Forest

Mountain pine beetle infestation has devastated pine forests in western North America, creating vast areas of “dead-crown zombie trees.” (iStock image)

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program at USDA offers competitively awarded grants to qualified small businesses to support high quality, advanced concepts research related to important scientific problems and opportunities in agriculture that could lead to significant public benefits.  The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administers SBIR Phase I grants that are limited to $100,000 and a duration of 8 months, and Phase II grants of up to $500,000 and 24 months that are open only to Phase I awardees. Below is the first-hand account of NIFA-funded SBIR research from Agenor Mafra-Neto, President and CEO of ISCA Technologies, Inc.

It might sound like the subject of the lamest B-horror flick ever made, but for pine trees in western North America, it’s a true story—the plant world’s equivalent of a zombie plague that has destroyed an estimated 723 million cubic of timber on more than 17.5 million hectares of forested land.

All on account of a tiny mountain pine beetle (MPB), no larger than a single grain of rice. Read more »

Agricultural Research Needs to Be a Priority

Agronomist Edgar E. Hartwig with soybeans

Agricultural research means real results helping real people every day. Agronomist Edgar E. Hartwig has devoted half a century to soybeans research, developing productive plants with built-in resistance to insects, nematodes, and diseases. He is best known for commercial varieties that include Bragg, Lee, Forrest, Lamar, Sharkey, and most recently, Vernal. (USDA ARS photo by Keith Weller.)

Seeing President Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal and the strong commitment it makes to agricultural research reminds me of Dr. Consuelo De Moraes.

As a university researcher and panel manager of the National Research Initiative (NRI) competitive grants program, I called Dr. De Moraes in 2002 to inform her that USDA was going to fund her research proposal on determining how plants defend themselves against insects, so farmers could exploit the same as a means to control pests. She screamed with happiness. Later I learned that people heard the scream throughout the building at Pennsylvania State University. After that, Dr. De Moraes went on to great acclaim as one of the leading insect researchers. Read more »

Under Represented Students STEP-Up to Careers in Agriculture

Students in the STEP UP program taking part in a short course in environmental soil science

Students enrolled in the STEP UP to USDA Career Success program take part in an intense short course in environmental soil science. (Photo courtesy of Tanner Machado)

The lack of women and minority representation in the professional agricultural workforce has become so pronounced that in STEM Stratplan 2013 President Obama called for an “all-hands-on-deck approach to science, technology, engineering, and math” (STEM) education.

According to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, despite accounting for 16 percent of the U.S. population, Hispanics earned only 8 percent of all certificates and degrees awarded in STEM fields. Read more »