SAIPAN and Northern Islands Municipal Council Vice Chairwoman Antonia Manibusan Tudela took the concept of homegrown workforce capacity building to the next level last week by introducing 17th Council No. 16SNMIC-06, requesting Department of Public Lands Secretary Teresita Santos to designate certain parcels on Saipan for the proposed open concept farmers market under the auspices of the CNMI Farmers Organization in support of homegrown fresh food production locally.
The local council action comes shortly after receiving a CREES program-sponsored briefing at Norther Marianas College on Aug. 3.
The briefing session was led by NMC Professor Dr. Yunzi Zhang regarding the $10 million next generation of diverse food and agriculture professionals that NMC recently secured as one of 33 partners with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s $262.5 million investment in institutions of higher education.
NMC’s five-year program includes scholarship opportunities for undergraduate, graduate and doctoral tuition-support.
A combination of experiential learning activities for off-site real time farms in Asia and the U.S. mainland for NMC students are included in the NMC plan.
Indoor farming training component will be held on Saipan and open to local farmers and members of the greater community throughout the Commonwealth.
Off-island instructors and trainers including local partners will provide assistance in agri-tourism summer academies, which are also open to local farmers and the greater community, including an outreach and engagement activities on veterinary workshops and training open to the community throughout the Commonwealth.
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture or NIFA has 33 higher eligible higher learning partner institutions which include the 1890 land-grant universities; the 1994 tribal colleges and universities; the Hispanic-serving institutions; Alaska Native-serving and Native Hawaiian-serving institutions; and institutions of higher education located in the insular areas, as well as their partners.
Among the 33 institutions of higher learning partnering with NIFA’s “From Learning to Leading: Cultivating the Next Generation of Diverse Food and Agriculture Professionals Program” are the University of Guam, University of Hawaii, Manoa campus, and the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.
The Biden administration’s inflation reduction strategy is implemented through NIFA to “enable eligible institutions, from New York to the Northern Mariana Islands, to build and sustain the next generation of food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences workforce,” which also aims at lowering “costs for American families, expand access to markets to producers from all backgrounds and communities, build a clean energy economy and strengthen American supply chains.”
In addition to NMC’s Dr. Yuni Zhang, other presenters during the briefing session with the 17th municipal council were Karim Johnson of the business program and CREES program manager Roxe I. Lazaro.
For her part, CREES’ Roxe Lazaro talked about the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm and Food Workers Relief Program.
The program is available to frontline farm workers in commercial farms and engaged in farming, livestock, and meatpacking activities. Qualified applicants will receive a one-time $600 payment for expenses incurred during January 27, 2020 through May 11, 2023 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Eligibility requirements for the one-time payment are proof of identity (photo ID) and proof of employment (e.g. W-2, paystub, etc.).
Roxe Lazaro is open to convening a meeting with a group of prospective applicants and their employers to further discuss or answer questions or provide help with the application, and may be contacted at the NMC-CREES on Saipan.