USDA to fund bioenergy education projects

| January 25, 2011

The USDA recently announced loan guarantees to three biorefineries based in the Southeast and now, the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has another bioenergy related announcement. NIFA will provide two grants, totaling $9,671,787, to promote and enhance educational opportunities for students interested in bioenergy and biobased products, according to the USDA. The grants are aimed at providing students with an ability to compete in future bioenergy based jobs, or to help them in their own research of bioenergy-based projects.

Cornell University’s Corinne Rutzke received $4,999,940 to provide content and materials to students, grades 8 through the undergraduate level, all based on the Northeast’s future feedstock systems. At the University of Wisconsin, Richard Amasino received $4,671,847 for the K-12 school system. Along with partnering schools that include the College of the Menominee Nation and Michigan State University, Amasino will use the funds to educate teachers and faculty on energy-related issues, and provide students with funding for biobased research projects.

“Bioenergy and biobased products hold vast potential as the foundation for new technologies and opportunities that could have a large impact on rural economies,” said Roger Beachy, director of NIFA, in a statement on the grants. “But these innovations require a trained and skilled workforce to meet the needs of new ‘bioeconomies.’” The grants, Beachy added, will ensure that the U.S. has the needed amount of workers that possess the problem-solving skills to address the energy challenges facing the country.

Both projects receiving the grants have a duration of five years, and will be funded through the NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, a grant program started with the 2008 Farm Bill.