(WASHINGTON, D.C.) ― U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of $18.9 million in competitive grants to support fellowships and other higher education training projects in food, nutrition, natural resources and agriculture fields. These fellowships are administered through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and will support pre- and post-doctoral fellowships, undergraduate fellowships, and professional development for secondary school teachers and educational professionals.
“Highly motivated, talented and creative workers in the food, agriculture and natural resources fields will only become more valuable on a global scale as we face a growing population and tougher climate obstacles in the next few decades,” said Vilsack. “Investing in innovation and growing a strong knowledge base now is critical to bolstering food security, health, and economic viability for the next generation.”
Grants are available through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Education and Literacy Initiative. Past AFRI Education and Literacy Initiative fellowships include an assessment by Virginia Commonwealth University of how climate change influences population dynamics of agricultural and forest insect pests; research at the University of Wisconsin to identify traits governing bacterial population in freshwater lakes; work by the University of California-Berkeley to give farmers and land managers a framework for restoring hedgerows to stabilize pollinator communities; and more.
Funded fellowships will span the six challenge areas identified by AFRI: childhood obesity prevention, climate change, food safety, food security, sustainable bioenergy and water. The fellowship program also will fund projects that contain well-developed and highly-engaged mentoring and training activities. NIFA will fund single-function and multi-function research, education or extension projects. Webinars for more information about these grants are available on the NIFA website.
Pre- and post-doctoral fellowships will serve as a conduit for new scientists and professionals to enter research, education and extension fields within the food, agricultural, natural resources and human sciences. Applications for pre- and post-doctoral fellowships are due February 11, 2016.
Undergraduate fellows will obtain hands-on experience and training and receive strong mentoring to assist them in joining the workforce or for pursuing graduate studies. Additionally, the undergraduate fellowships will provide opportunities for students from underrepresented and economically disadvantaged groups at minority-serving institutions, community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities to partner with larger universities and USDA laboratories. Applications for undergraduate fellowships are due March 24, 2016.
Grants for colleges and universities to develop training programs for secondary school teachers and education professionals, such as counselors and administrators, aim to provide immersive learning experiences for the grantees to create and replicate best practices to improve student success within the food, agricultural, natural resources, and human sciences. Applications for these professional development grants are due March 18, 2016.
AFRI is NIFA’s flagship competitive grant program and was established under the 2008 Farm Bill. AFRI supports work in six priority areas: plant health and production and plant products; animal health and production and animal products; food safety, nutrition and health; bioenergy, natural resources and environment; agriculture systems and technology; and agriculture economics and rural communities.
Since 2009, NIFA has invested in and advanced innovative and transformative initiatives to solve societal challenges and ensure the long-term viability of agriculture. NIFA’s integrated research, education, and extension programs, supporting the best and brightest scientists and extension personnel, have resulted user-inspired, groundbreaking discoveries that are combating childhood obesity, improving and sustaining rural economic growth, addressing water availability issues, increasing food production, finding new sources of energy, mitigating climate variability, and ensuring food safety. To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural science, visit www.nifa.usda.gov/impacts