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NIFA Invests Over $14.3M for Ag Workforce Training and Rural Economic Development

Farming instructor with apprentice in agricultural field. Courtesy of Adobe Stock.
Farming instructor with apprentice in agricultural field. Courtesy of Adobe Stock.
KANSAS CITY, Mo., April 12, 2021  – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) recently awarded $9.44 million in funding for 19 Agricultural Workforce Training grants, and 12 awards totaling $4.88 million for rural economic development projects.  These grants are part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.
The Agricultural Workforce training grants will provide community, technical or junior college students the skills and tools necessary to secure industry-accepted credentials to join the workforce.
“Community colleges provide significant workforce development nationwide,” said NIFA director Dr. Carrie Castille. “These awards will help students earn a two-year degree or an industry-accepted credential that will create better job opportunities and fuel the talent pipeline needed in the food and agricultural sector.”
Some examples of the projects from the 19 Agricultural Workforce training grants: Carteret Community College’s project, “Strengthening the Aquaculture Workforce Development Pipeline in Coastal North Carolina,” will increase dual-enrollment between the college and two local high schools and place training apprentices with local commercial aquaculture industry and producers. Chemeketa Community College’s project, “Traditional Ecological Knowledge Workforce Development,” will provide career pathways into the agricultural fields for Native American students and other students of color resulting in students obtaining crop health and/or irrigation certificates.
“Rural economic development projects will address critical concerns, like exploring the role of innovation in rural business success and vitality, measuring and building on local food system vitality for communities in rural areas, exploring opioid risks in rural areas, and developing a research-based entrepreneurial curriculum for rural businesses and their survival,” Castille said.
Examples of projects from the 12 Rural Economic Development awards: University of Kentucky’s project, “Evaluating the Importance of Safe Drinking Water and Wastewater Systems on Rural Economic Development,” will improve understanding of the role of water and wastewater systems in economic development and growth in rural communities, with a focus on the South. University of Vermont’s project, “Seeding Food Resilience Through Anchor Institutions,” will develop a comprehensive research and outreach plan to enhance the capacity of anchor institutions in Puerto Rico and New England to contribute to community and food system resilience, focusing on workforce and market development
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.
Visit our website:; Twitter: @USDA_NIFA; LinkedIn: USDA-NIFA. To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural science (searchable by state or keyword), visit
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