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NIFA Invests $17.2 Million for Ag Education and Workforce Development
Kentucky Ag Connection - 05/06/2021

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced Wednesday an investment of $17.2 million for 37 awards in Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates. This program is funded through NIFA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

"Developing the next generation of research, education and extension professionals in food and agricultural sciences is critical to the growth of the agriculture industry," said NIFA Director Dr. Carrie Castille. "NIFA programs support colleges, universities and technical education institutions to ensure a steady pipeline of talent to fuel the future workforce."

"Building Prosperity in Rural Communities through Community and Economic Development and Design Experential Learning in Kentucky" at the University of Kentucky in Lexington was one of the projects to receive funding.

The goal of this integrated research and Extension project is to build prosperity in rural communities by engaging students and community members in community development activities, to develop leadership skills through engaged work in the community, and to create and implement programs that will generate and sustain economic opportunity in rural communities. Our specific objectives are: 1. To prepare students to serve as the next generation of community and economic development professionals to build capacity and rural prosperity. 2. To serve rural communities by building a pipeline of talent that focuses on the revitalization of rural America. 3. To improve University systems by building an understanding of an integrated research/engagement model as a mechanism for implementing community and economic development programming. This program will provide support for 40 students, recruited from Agricultural Economics, Community and Leadership Development, Landscape Architecture, College of Design, Kentucky State University, and surrounding colleges and universities to participate in both service learning-based study tours and an internship in rural Kentucky. The international study tour will focus on revitalization through design and economic development in Scotland and the domestic tour (Chattanooga) will provide a domestic comparison.

Other project examples from the Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates priority area include: Texas A&M University-Kingsville's project, "The Drone WAVE Factor (drone use for women advancement, visibility and experiences in food and agriculture cyberinformatics and tools oriented to research)," to recruit, train, mentor, and graduate the next generation of women professionals with competitive geospatial sciences and technology skills. University of Hawaii's project, "Empowering Women and Underrepresented Undergraduates with Advanced Technology Research Training in Agriculture and Food Sciences," to develop the local agriculture and food science industry workforce in Hawaii through education and training. Clemson University's project, "Florece!: Future Leaders Obtaining Research & Extension Career Experiences," to prepare 40 undergraduate students to become globally-engaged professionals with world-class research and extension skills that allow them to identify critical factors that impact the sustainability of agricultural systems.

NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and Extension across the nation to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. NIFA supports initiatives that ensure the long-term viability of agriculture and applies an integrated approach to ensure that groundbreaking discoveries in agriculture-related sciences and technologies reach the people who can put them into practice. In FY2020, NIFA's total investment was $1.95 billion.

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