USDA Strengthens Agricultural Sciences at Hispanic-Serving Institutions

Dan Education, Industry News Release

To Cultivate Future Scientists and Leaders

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced grants to support agricultural science education at Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). These grants will strengthen the ability of the institutions to carry out education, applied research, and related community development programs.

agricultural“These grants highlight NIFA’s commitment to Hispanic-Serving Institutions by cultivating future scientists and leaders,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “Such investments will ensure a diverse professional workforce in the food, agricultural, natural resource, and human sciences.”

The Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Education Grants Program promotes and strengthens efforts to attract, retain, and graduate outstanding students capable of enhancing the nation’s food, agricultural, natural resource, and human sciences workforce. HSIs are colleges and universities that have an enrollment of at least 25 percent Hispanic students. Currently, some 472 HSIs are located in 21 states and Puerto Rico, serving more than 3.15 million students.

In fiscal-year 2017, 12 grants totaling $2.8 million were awarded. They include:

  • California State University-Northridge, Northridge, California, $250,000
  • San Diego State University, San Diego, California, $250,000
  • University of California-Merced, Merced, California, $250,000
  • University of California-Riverside, Riverside, California, $250,000
  • University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, $250,000
  • University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras Campus, San Juan, Puerto Rico, $250,000
  • University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras Campus, San Juan, Puerto Rico, $250,000
  • Texas A&M Kingsville, Kingsville, Texas, $275,000
  • Texas A&M Kingsville, Kingsville, Texas, $231,000
  • Austin Community College District, Austin, Texas, $250,000
  • Lee College District, Baytown, Texas, $250,000
  • Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, Texas, $50,000

Among the projects, students at San Diego State University will learn innovative solutions to food production by integrating indigenous farming knowledge with modern agricultural methods. Austin Community College will develop new associate degrees in sustainable agriculture to increase access to agricultural sciences careers for underrepresented students in Central Texas.  Project details can be found on the NIFA website.

Previously funded projects include New Mexico State University’s Southwest Natural Resource Career Track program, which is providing pathways workshops, leadership classes, and community outreach to its students. The program has facilitated 32 undergraduate summer internships and reached more than 1,500 high school and community college students at 14 recruiting events. Among the NRCT participants, Marc Estrada took an undergraduate summer training experience as a forestry technician with the USDA Forest Service out of Reserve, New Mexico, and is now employed as a forester with USDA Forest Service in Gila National Forest. Through the NCRT program, Antonio Garcia participated in a Forest Service internship and was later hired as a volunteer and partnership manager with the USDA Forest Service at Cibola National Forest. The STEP UP to USDA Career Success at Texas A&M University-Kingsville has given students an opportunity to pursue STEM degrees and careers in the agricultural workforce. More than 200 students have participated in the program, which introduces them to various agricultural disciplines and prepares them for USDA internships.

NIFA’s mission is to invest in and advance agricultural research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges. NIFA’s investments in transformative science directly support the long-term prosperity and global preeminence of U.S. agriculture. To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural sciences, visit, sign up for email updates, or follow us on Twitter @USDA_NIFA#NIFAImpacts.