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2/1/2016 12:00 AM
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced the availability of $18.9 million in grants to support fellowships and other higher education training projects in food, nutrition, natural resources and agriculture fields.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced in a release 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.

"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 Secretary Vilsack, in a statement. "Investing in innovation and growing a strong knowledge base now is critical to bolstering food security, health, and economic viability for the next generation."

The department said grants will be available through National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)'s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Education and Literacy Initiative, spanning 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, USDA said:

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.

To learn more about any of these fellowship programs, visit 1.usa.gov/1QKQLPH.

New Programs
1/25/2016 12:00 AM

The Agriculture Department has announced $3.4 million in funding for research projects in support of the new International Wheat Yield Partnership program.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced the availability of $3.4 million in funding for research projects in support of the new International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP) program.

“Wheat is one of the world’s most important staple crops, providing a significant amount of daily calories and protein throughout the world,” Secretary Vilsack said in a statement. “By 2050, the demand for wheat as part of a reliable, affordable, and nutritious diet will grow alongside the world population, and continued wheat research will play an important role in ensuring its continued availability.”

USDA said in a release that the new program—which is part of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative—works to enhance agriculture research that can benefit the global community and support the G20 nations’ Wheat Initiative with the aims of:

  • enhancing the genetic component of wheat yield and
  • developing new wheat varieties that are adaptable to different geographical regions and environmental conditions.

The program’s priorities will focus on breakthroughs for wheat breeding using new technologies and also discoveries that lead to significantly greater yield, USDA said. Applications that demonstrate coordination and collaboration with international partners are encouraged, the department said.

Applications are due May 3, 2016.

For more information about other NIFA funding opportunities, visit http://nifa.usda.gov/program/agriculture-and-food-research-initiative-afri. To apply or learn more about the IWYP program, go to http://nifa.usda.gov/funding-opportunity/nifa-international-wheat-yield-partnership-program-nifa-iwyp.

1/18/2016 12:00 AM
U.S. Transportation Secretary (DOT) Anthony Foxx has announced a 10-year, nearly $4 billion investment to accelerate the development and adoption of safe vehicle automation through real-world pilot projects.

U.S. Transportation Secretary (DOT) Anthony Foxx has announced part of President Obama’s proposal to invest in a 21st century transportation system: a 10-year, nearly $4 billion investment to accelerate the development and adoption of safe vehicle automation through real-world pilot projects.

Secretary Foxx said in a release that the U.S. Department of Transportation is also removing potential roadblocks to the integration of innovative, transformational automotive technology that can significantly improve safety, mobility, and sustainability.

“We are on the cusp of a new era in automotive technology with enormous potential to save lives, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and transform mobility for the American people,” said Secretary Foxx in a release. “Today’s actions and those we will pursue in the coming months will provide the foundation and the path forward for manufacturers, state officials, and consumers to use new technologies and achieve their full safety potential.”

The President’s FY17 budget proposal would provide nearly $4 billion over 10 years for pilot programs to test connected vehicle systems in designated corridors throughout the country, and work with industry leaders to ensure a common multistate framework for connected and autonomous vehicles, DOT said.

Also unveiled was policy guidance that updates the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2013 preliminary policy statement on autonomous vehicles, said DOT.  The new guidance reflects the reality that the widespread deployment of fully autonomous vehicles is now feasible, said Secretary NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind in a statement.

DOT is committing to the following milestones in 2016:

  • Within six months, NHTSA will work with industry and other stakeholders to develop guidance on the safe deployment and operation of autonomous vehicles, providing a common understanding of the performance characteristics necessary for fully autonomous vehicles and the testing and analysis methods needed to assess them.
  • Within six months, NHTSA will work with state partners, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, and other stakeholders to develop a model state policy on automated vehicles that offers a path to consistent national policy.
  • Secretary Foxx encouraged manufacturers to submit rule interpretation requests where appropriate to help enable technology innovation. For example, NHTSA responded to an interpretation request from BMW confirming that the company’s remote self-parking system meets federal safety standards.  Click here to read this interpretation.
  • When interpretation authority is not sufficient, Secretary Foxx further encouraged manufacturers to submit requests for use of the agency’s exemption authority to allow the deployment of fully autonomous vehicles.  Exemption authority allows NHTSA to enable the deployment of up to 2,500 vehicles for up to two years if the agency determines that an exemption would ease development of new safety features.

DOT and NHTSA said they will develop the new tools necessary for this new era of vehicle safety and mobility, and will consider seeking new authorities when they are necessary to ensure that fully autonomous vehicles, including those designed without a human driver in mind, are deployable in large numbers when they are demonstrated to provide an equivalent or higher level of safety than is now available.

See the complete announcement at 1.usa.gov/1P3gWSy.

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