USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Invests in the Safety, Health of Farmers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced support for projects that strengthen food and agricultural science education in insular areas of the United States. Funding is made through three NIFA programs:

  • Resident Instruction Grants Program for Institutions of Higher Education in Insular Areas (RIIA), which work to strengthen institutional educational capacities in instruction and curriculum within a broadly defined arena of food and agricultural sciences-related disciplines,
  • Distance Education Grants (DEG) for Institutions of Higher Education in Insular Areas, which support projects to improve formal, post-secondary agricultural sciences education through distance education technology, and
  • Agriculture and Food Sciences Facilities and Equipment (AGFEI) program, which supports the construction or upgrade of agriculture and food science facilities and equipment necessary to conduct tropical and subtropical agricultural research.

“By strengthening institutional capacities in instruction and curriculum, these programs will help insular area institutions meet their unique needs,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “NIFA investments are helping to increase the number and diversity of students who will pursue food and agricultural science careers.”

Among the new projects, an American Samoa Community College project will enhance their agriculture, community, and natural resources program with three full-time instructors to help increase student enrollment and program graduates. The Northern Marianas College project will use distance education to provide instruction, curriculum, and teaching programs to its residents. University of Virgin Islands at St. Croix’s Agricultural Experiment Station (AES) seeks to improve water conservation and agricultural sustainability in the hot, humid tropics by incorporating rainwater catchment, distribution, and irrigation technologies into existing irrigation infrastructure.

In fiscal year 2017, 13 grants totaling $1.916 million were awarded through the RIIA, DEG, and AGFEI programs. They include:

Resident Instruction Grants (RIIA

  • American Samoa Community College, Pago Pago, American Samoa, $144,750
  • Universidad Metropolitana, San Juan, Puerto Rico, $144,745
  • University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico, $138,686
  • University of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, $144, 661

Distance Education Grants (DEG)

  • American Samoa Community College, Pago Pago, American Samoa, $167,841
  • University of Guam, Mangilao, Guam $168,653
  • University of Puerto Rico at Utuado, Utuado, Puerto Rico, $134,623
  • Northern Marianas College, Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, $124,827
  • University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, $168,786

Agriculture and Food Sciences Facilities and Equipment (AGFEI) Program

  • University of Guam, Mangilao, Guam, $144,750
  • University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico, $144,731
  • University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico, $144,597
  • University of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, $144,750

Project details can be found at the NIFA website.

Previously funded work includes a Palau Community College project that seeks to increase enrollment and graduation rates of agricultural science majors. Resources were made available for student recruitment programs, resulting in increased enrollment, retention and graduation rates, meeting the need for professionals and technicians in agriculture science and related fields in the Republic of Palau and the Micronesian Region. As of the fall 2015 and spring 2016 semesters, 9% of incoming students selected agriculture science as their major, 80% were retained in the programs, and 100% graduated successfully. The University of Guam enhanced its agricultural sciences programs and conducted outreach to local school teachers and students to introduce them to studies and careers in agriculture and food sciences. The university now offers a new graduate program in Sustainable Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

Insular areas are jurisdictions that are not part of a State or a Federal district. The term is used to refer to any commonwealth, freely associated state, possession, or territory.

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