Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Sep 1, 2022
Project End Date
Aug 31, 2026
Grant Year
Project Director
Ancona, V.
Recipient Organization
Performing Department
Citrus Center
Non Technical Summary
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the United States imports approximately32 percent of the fresh vegetables and 55 percent of the fresh fruit that Americans consumeannually. About half of the fresh produce imported to the U.S. is coming from Mexico and thereis a need of prepared personnel in inspection and management of imported fresh produce in thesouth border. The large Hispanic population in South Texas is the ideal workforce in the U.S.-Mexico border, however, training of Hispanic students in the global food supply chain is lackingin most agricultural programs. In this project, we aim to increase the Hispanic human resourcecapacity by training Hispanic students from the College of Agriculture at Texas A&M Kingsvillein global agriculture. To attain this aim, we propose to 1) create a course with experientiallearning activities; 2) enhance learning with cultural and international immersion experiences; 3)develop a student-centered mentorship program and workshop activities to increase retention andenhance student placement; 4) Dissemination of project outcomes to stakeholders. The impactsand outcomes of the project include: at least 30 Hispanic students acquiring new skills relevantto USDA mission areas and global food production, 30 students considering USDA careers,graduation of 27 + undergraduates in Agriculture, 2 MSc graduates in Plant and Soil Science,increased collaboration and support between Ag Industries and TAMUK, new internationalpartnerships with Mexico, increased awareness of globally relevant issues in 30+ students.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Goals / Objectives
We aim to increase the Hispanic human resourcecapacity by training Hispanic students from the College of Agriculture at Texas A&M Kingsvillein global agriculture. To attain this aim, we propose to:1) create a course with experientiallearning activities;2) enhance learning with cultural and international immersion experiences;3)develop a student-centered mentorship program and workshop activities to increase retention andenhance student placement;4) Dissemination of project outcomes to stakeholders.
Project Methods
Recruitment for students for the program will be done at the beginning of the fallsemester with a call for student applications at TAMUK through emails, flyers and classroom'svisits. Also, Department chair and faculty from the AAES Department will participate in aninformative meeting and be involved in recruitment efforts for the program. Interested students willbe required to apply by submitting an essay stating their career goals and objectives and go throughan interview process with PD and Co-PDs. Students will be evaluated and selected from the pool ofapplicants based on their application essay, GPA and overall interview score. The top 10undergraduate students in their sophomore and junior year will be selected each year to participate inthe program. Selected students will be assigned to one faculty (PD or Co-PD) to develop theirindividual mentoring plans (objective 3a) and will participate in workshops organized by the program(objective 3b). Participant students will register to the Global Agriculture (summer-intensive) course,which will be developed as part of this proposal starting in the summer 2023. This course willintroduce students to food production in a global market and discuss topics such as importing freshproduce from Mexico, risks associated with the entry of new pests and pathogens, food safety andother topics of global importance given by Drs. Ancona and Reyes (PD and Co-PD) and invitedspeakers experts in the topics (objective 1a, see letters of support). This course will also have handsoncomponent to train students in the laboratory to learn molecular biology techniques foridentification of pathogens of agronomic and food safety importance (objective 1b).Visits to publicand private organizations, USDA-APHIS-PPQ facilities, packing houses and distribution centers willincrease the learning capacity of the course (objective 1c). As part of the course, students will travelto Mexico to engage in an educational and culture immersion experience to enhance their learning ofglobal market (objective 2). Students completing the course (1 year in the program), will continued tobe mentored to ensure degree completion and application to internships and career opportunities inagriculture. Two students from the program will be recruited to continue to graduate school(objective 3). To fulfill objective 4 (dissemination), students completing the program will be requiredto give a presentation to talk about the impact that participating in the program had in their lives andcareer objectives and perspectives. Graduate students from the program will participate in nationalconferences and publications that acknowledge funding from this grant, and a booklet will beproduced to highlight the impact the project had on changing students' lives.

Progress 09/01/22 to 08/31/23

Target Audience:The large Hispanic population in South Texas is the ideal workforce on the U.S. - Mexico border. However, training of Hispanic students in the global food supply chain is lacking in most agricultural programs. The long-term goal of this project is to increase the number of Hispanic graduates in leadership positions in global agriculture. It is predicted that, by the year 2050, Latinos will make up approximately 30% of the U.S. population. Although the high school completion rate for Latinos has increased over the years, only 44% of these students transition into college. Latino students are faced with numerous obstacles as they try to navigate the college pipeline, such as being more likely to attend high poverty secondary schools and having parents with little experience with college education. Despite these challenges, many Latino students continue to be academically successful. The number of 18- to 24-year-old Hispanics enrolled in college increased to 2.4 million in 2021, up from 1.2 million in 2005. The share of all college students ages 18 to 24 who were Hispanic grew as well. The lowest share during the period (11.4%) was in 2006; by 2021 it had swelled to nearly 20%.It is important to note that much of this enrollment growth has been at community colleges with 46% of Latino students matriculating to two-year institutions. Latinos are still the least likely to complete a bachelor's degree. Thus, it is important to identify factors that may influence the high school to college transition for Latino youth, as well as factors that impact college completion. Accordingly, this grant provides immersion experiences to provide a unique perspective on the cultural and commercial aspects of agricultural production, not only in the U.S., but also outside of the U.S. On this grant, participants are both undergraduate and graduate students who are studying Plant and Soil Sciences, Agriculture Business, and Agriculture Science, and anticipate adding a teaching certification. Reasons cited for grant participation include the opportunity to travel, continued growth and development in chosen field, to support Texas food security and economic growth initiatives, to learn about global markets, and investigate leadership practices and opportunities.Students were asked to answer, from their perspective, which components of the grant they found the most helpful. One student stated that the most helpful components of the grant is being taught by professors that are knowledgeable in their area(s) of expertise. Learning from them was great because I got to learn about the global fresh produce market. Another student related that they found it helpful to learn about the economics of global produce and how everything is interconnected on some level. A third student expressed that the opportunity to listen to speakers from so many different fields was very helpful. This student continued, there are many aspects one doesn't think of when confined to their own independent field, but you realize there are many parts working together to meet a common goal. Student number four stated, "I think being able to travel and compare the United States and Mexico markets and putting into perspective what we learned in the classroom was very effective." The fifth student believes some of the most helpful components of the grant were the opportunities to learn about job recruitment and internship availability. They shared that, "As a graduate student, I am approaching the end of my academic career and am ready to step into the workforce. This grant provided me knowledge about which agency within the USDA would ideally be the best fit for me, and furthermore, the steps I need to take to ensure that I can achieve a position of interest." Lastly, a sixth student relayed that, "It (Connect the Dots grant activities) opened up new doors and helped me to understand some career opportunities. For example, it was an eye opener for graduate school, and to see if USDA in customs would be a good fit for me." Changes/Problems: Nothing Reported What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided?A course in Global Agriculture, including the role of the TAMUK Citrus Center, was designed by faculty.On Monday June 5, 2023, Dr. Ancona welcomed the students to the Citrus Center.Dr. Ancona discussed the objectives of the course, the expectations for students,and theevaluation,which includeda weekly individual reportdescribing what the student had learned.The planned curriculum includedthe history of the Citrus Center and itsdiverse programs and role in supporting the industry in the region through education, research and service.Mark VanNess, director of the Budwood Program, walked the students through the greenhouse facilities explaining the importance of maintaining a disease and pest free environment to grow new citrus plants. Dr. Zapata, AssocProfessor in the Deptof AgEconomics at Texas A&M University - McAllen, Texas,introducedstudents to the importance of trade in a globalized economy and discussed how and why the imports of fresh produce from Mexico have increased in recent years as a result of improved infrastructure and free-trade agreements. He shareddata on the importance of the ports of entry to the the lower Rio Grande Regionin terms of fresh produce. Dr. Cabrera gave a lecture on fruit quality and physiology, including how different activities affect quality parameters, and the different pre-harvest and post-harvest activities that influence fruit quality including sorting, transportation, and storage. Then students had lab practice where they learned how to measure fruit quality including sugar content, juice analysis, aesthetics, etc.Tuesday June 6, 2023 Dr. Ancona and the Food Safety Modernization Act. In this lecture, students were presented with the risks associated with eating fresh produce and how the Food Safety and Modernization Act establishes the rules and regulations to reduce the number of illnesses caused by contaminated produce. The lecture discussed the requirements for farmers on water quality, soil amendments, animals, employees and equipment and the allowable numbers of detected of E. coli in samples. This lecture also mentioned the verification programs for US importers of food and how they comply at the point of origin with the same rules and regulations on food safety.Dr. Anciso- Food safety. This lecture covered a more applied aspect of food safety focusing on good agricultural practices. Dr. Anciso's lecture covered different examples of how contaminated produce reachesmarket places and the different microorganisms that can cause disease outbreaks such as E.coli, Salmonella and Listeria.Dr. Machado - Food safety in the meat market.Dr. Machado explained how the meat is processed, and the different practices that take place to prevent contamination with microbes, especially pathogenic bacteria. He described the sanitization practices, includinglarge amounts of water that are used to wash animal carcasses, as well as the temperature requirements for processing.Dr. Ancona - Microbiology lab. Lab safety practices were discussed, along with personal protective equipment, and procedures for the proper wearing and disposing of gloves. Students then prepared culture media plates that were used to culture the microbes present in different fresh produce that comes from the market. The goal was to demonstrate that, although fresh produce looks bright and clean on the shelves, it is covered with microbes that can affect the safety of food sold to the public. Students thenobserved, under the microscope, the different fungi structures up-close.Wednesday June 7, 2023 Dr. Ancona. Agricultural Biosecurity. In this lecture, Dr. Ancona covered the risks posed by pests-related to importing produce, how pests and diseases affecting the environment can enter the US, food systems, and cause disease outbreaks. Rules and regulations to protect agricultural systems and the environment from invasive pests and diseases were discussed, as well as devastating examples that led to the creation of regulations for prevention, detection, and response to agricultural threats.Dr. Setamou. Addressing the Threats of Invasive Pests to Agriculture. This lecture provided students with the principles of entomology regarding exotic and invasive pests, their impact on agroecosystems, and how they are introduced into the country. The importance of addressing the issue of invasive species and finding solutions to stop their spread was discussed. Examples of programs to control and eradicate invasive species were provided.Dr. Chow. Biology of the invasive pest Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) and the parasitoid Tamarixia radiata.In this short lecture, Dr. Chow described the impact that the invasive ACP has had to the citrus industry of Texas and the programs that are currently deployed to control the insect by an imported natural predator, the wasp T. radiata. Dr. Chow explained the ACP suppression program in residential areas using the parasitoid as a biocontrol age and explained the life cycle of both insects.Dr. Chow. Entomology Lab. In this lab practice, students had hands-on practice to manipulate the APC and T. radiata and classify the different stages in the ACP life cycle and its parasitoid T. radiata using a stereoscope with a camera. Students were divided into teams to compete as to which team was able to identify all life cycle stages of both insects.Thursday June 8, 2023 Visit to USDA-Los Indios with Mr. Elias Gonzalez. Students were introduced to the activities that USDA performs at the border for inspections of plant materials. The tour of the facilities included an insect collection for identification of pests. Students were present for an inspection of a person who was introducing plant material from Mexico and discussed with the inspection agents the regulations to introduce the materials. Visit to USDA -Plant Protection Quarantine (PPQ) with Ms. Lupita Garza. The Mexican fruit fly is an invasive pest and the USDA-PPQ has a MexFly eradication program. During this visit, USDA-PPQ officials explained the eradication program, how is monitored, the fruit fly findings that trigger a quarantine zone, and the outreach component of the program. The visit included a tour of the facilities, including the lab, for identifying sterile flies and the room for growing the sterile flies for release.Friday June 9, 2023 Mr. Dale Murden and Mr. Dante Galeazzi. Industry perspectives of imported produce. Dante Galeazzi, President and CEO of Texas International Produce Association and Mr. Dale Murden, President of Texas Citrus Mutual discussed the impacts of importing/exporting fresh fruits & vegetables to Texas producers and the local economy. Both speakers discussed the seasonality of products and how this affects where the US imports fruits and vegetables year-round. They discussed the US industry challenges in terms of infrastructure, labor shortages, trade barriers, invasive pest pressures, and consumer demand patterns.Monday June 12, 2023 Principles of Agribusiness in International Trade; International Trade Policies; Biotechnology in International Trade; Visit to Plant Biotechnology Lab and breeding programs in AgriLife.Tuesday June 13, 2023 Agriculture Production in Developing Countries; Coffee Production in Central America; Certification programs for coffee and cacao; Visit to Thompson farms to tour coffee and citrus nursery.Wednesday June 14, 2023 Visit to Bay Bees Farm - local honey bee producers; Mexico Trade Partners; and global citizenship.Thursday June 15, 2023 Workshop - Pathways Programs; successful resumes; navigation of; final review and group discussion.Friday June 16, 2023 Prepare for trip to Mexico. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest?Students at Texas A&M-Kingsville are being trained in global agriculture through experiential learning activities, as well as enhanced learning with cultural and international immersion experiences sponsored by USDA. TAMUK is well versed in and committed to USDA as a partner in its dedication to providing its students and faculty with meaningful educational and career enhancing opportunities.TAMUK has a website dedicated to grants and contracts that have been awarded by USDA and other agencies to provide state-of-the-art practices in the education of students and faculty.Students who have experienced grant funded enhanced educational opportunities are in communication with other students to discuss the opportunities available through USDA grants. The instructors and professors and students involved in the grant realize the importance of dissemination of project outcomes to stakeholders. The course in Global Agriculture evaluation used a retrospective survey model, which asked students to rate their knowledge and skill levels AFTER the educational classes and activities and then BEFORE the classes and activities. The evaluation was administered at the same time for both after and before, using a 5-point scale ranging from very low, to low, to moderate, to high, and to very high knowledge and skill levels. Five students participated in this survey. The participating students were majoring in Agronomy, Ag Business, Plant and Soil Sciences (2 students), and Agriculture Business - concentration in Ranch Management. However, one of the respondents had a standard answer of very high for all questions, not only after the class instruction, but before the class instruction, so was not considered appropriate to be included in the explanation of findings. The results of this survey will be shared not only in this report, but with TAMUK Agriculture professors and their students. Class Instruction Retrospective Survey Results Very Low/Low; Moderate; High/Very High AFTER BEFORE Diverse education, research, and service programs of the Citrus Center. High/Very High Low/Moderate/High Economic impact of the import and export of fresh produce in US, facilitated by improved infrastructure and free trade agreements. High/Very High Low/Moderate/High Importance of ports of entry in the lower Rio Grande area. High/Very High Low/Moderate Importance of the Citrus Budwood Certification Program in maintaining a disease and pest free environment in which to grow new plants. High/Very High Very Low Moderate Understanding how different pre-harvest and post-harvest processes (sorting, storage, transportation) affect fruit quality. High/Very High Very Low/Low Moderate High Lab practice to measure fruit quality - sugar content, juice analysis, and aesthetics High/Very High Very Low/ Low Moderate/Very High Awareness of the food safety rules and regulations that protect agricultural systems. High/Very High Low/ Moderate Water quality, soil amendments High/Very High Low/Moderate Very High Employees, animals, equipment requirements for farmers High/Very High Low/Moderate Food safety, modernization act Moderate High/Very High Low Allowable numbers of detectable E. Coli in fresh produce samples High/Very High Very Low/Low Verification programs for importers of food High/Very High Very Low/Low Good agricultural practices that reduce outbreaks of E Coli, Salmonella, and Listeria High/Very High Low/Moderate Effective sanitization practices and temperature requirements to prevent contamination with microbes during meat processing. High/Very High Low Moderate High Safety lab practices, including preparing culture media plates to determine presence and quantity of microbes from fresh produce. High/Very High Moderate High Very High Ability to identify fungi that might be present in fresh fruit. High/Very High Low Very High The importance of food safety measures. High/Very High Moderate Low/Moderate Very High Knowledge of the risks posed by invasive pests carrying diseases. High/Very High Moderate The principles of entomology regarding exotic and invasive pests and their impact on Agra systems. High/Very High Very Low, Low Moderate Programs to control and eradicate invasive species. High/Very High Moderate The Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) and its impact on the Texas citrus industry. High/Very High Very Low/Low High The ACP suppression program using the wasp T- radiata as a bio control agent. High/Very High Very Low/Low Inspection activities performed by USDA (Los Indios) at the border regarding plant materials. High/Very High Very Low/Low The USDA eradication program for Mexican fruit flies. High/Very High Very Low/Low Imported Produce - Impacts of importing and exporting fresh fruits and vegetables to Texas producers and the economy, including infrastructure. High/Very High Very Low/Low Dr Friend's presentation of the Principles of Agribusiness in International Trade the (Human Resources, Marketing, & Capital/Finance) High/Very High Very Low/Low Moderate Ancona Lab - Examination of fungal structures in the potato dextrose agar plates inoculated from unwashed produce High/Very High Low Very High Dr Mandadi's plant biotechnology power point presentation including the availability of genetically modified crops on the present market High/Very High Low Moderate Ancona Lab skills - Utilization of the Coliform Detection kit inoculation on the surface of produce High/Very High Low High Visit to AgriLife to see biotechnology lab breeding and entomology programs. High/Very High Very Low/Low Dr. Laughlin's presentation on coffee production in Central America High/Very High Very Low/Low Dr. Cabrera's discussion of the certification programs for coffee and cacao High/Very High Very Low/Low Moderate Visit to Thompson Farms in Alton, Texas to see how shade coffee is grown High/Very High Very Low/Low Bay Bees Farm visit to examine cultivation differences between European Honey Bees and Africanized Honey Bees High/Very High Very Low/Low Dr. Donato Global Citizenship presentation to prepare students for trip to Mexico High/Very High Very Low/Low Moderate Ruby de la Garza, USDA HSI Regional director, overview of pathways program, successful resumes & navigation High/Very High Very Low/Low Moderate As can be seen from the results of the Class Instruction Retrospective Survey Results, before the instruction, the four respondents primarily indicated very low knowledge, or low or moderate knowledge of the topics before the knowledge was presented to them. After the classroom information, the field trips, and the laboratory practice was completed, the students predominantly rated their knowledge as improving to high and very high. Since the number of students who completed this survey is small, statistical tests are inappropriate. However, the four students rated themselves as having learned important information that can be used in future endeavors. As the first year of the grant concluded, students were asked whether they had plans to apply for further educational opportunities, such as agricultural program employment, a leadership position, or continuing to pursue an additional higher education degree. One student shared that they wanted to pursue a master's degree in entomology. Two other students wanted to pursue a master's degree, one at Texas A&M University system (no major cited) and the other in a field of their choice. A fourth student plans on finishing their bachelor of science (BS) degree and getting a master's as well and explore teaching. If they don't teach, they would like to obtain a USDA-related job. Students were encouraged to share the grant information with other students to disseminate the important opportunities that USDA provides. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals?The Connecting the Dots grant will continue with the Agricultural Sciences in a Global Food Market course, student mentoring and coaching, active relationships among grant participants, active relationships with entities involved in global food economics, increases in publication opportunities, and attendance at conferences and meetings (regional and national.) Additionally, we will continue to monitor which components of the grant students found the most helpful and adjust less helpful measures accordingly. Six students - 5 undergraduates and 1 graduate - completed a survey of grant effectiveness. The students were majoring in Agriculture Business (2 students), Plant and Soil Sciences (3 students), and Agriculture Sciences with a teaching certification (1 student). Reasons for participating in this grant included the opportunity to travel (2 students), continued growth and development in chosen field (3 students), in support of Texas food security and economic growth initiatives (2 students), learn about global markets (4 students), and investigate leadership practices and opportunities (3 students). The six students then rated the effectiveness of various activities of the grant. The majority of this year's students positively rated the effectiveness of the grant in ensuring the achievement of the following activities: Development of a course in Agricultural Sciences in a global food market (100% very effective), student mentoring and coaching (83% very effective, 17% effective), active relationships with entities involved in global food economies (100% very effective), publication opportunities (30% very effective, 60% somewhat effective, 10% not effective), and attendance at conferences and meetings - regional and national (83% very effective, 17% somewhat effective). As seen above, students, in general, positively rated the effectiveness of the grant in providing opportunities to increase their human resource capacities through cultural and international immersion experiences. We plan to continue our efforts by improving the training of Hispanic students from the College of Agriculture at TAMUK in global agriculture, especially the opportunities for publication, based on the results of the survey of effectiveness.

What was accomplished under these goals? During the first year of the Connecting the Dots in the Global Fresh Produce Market, TAMUK Drs. Veronica Ancona, Joel Reyes-Cabrera, and Consuelo Donato provided 9 undergraduates working on various degrees in the Agricultural Sciences with experiential education courses, as well as hands-on practices that challenged their knowledge, promoted curiosity, and engaged them in critical thinking activities. The faculty developed a course in Global Agriculture that addresses different aspects in fresh produce production and commercialization in the global market (Mexico and U.S.A.) As part of the enhanced learning with intentional cultural and international immersion experiences, nine students traveled to Mexico to examine agricultural research and production. Students thoroughly enjoyed the learning activities of the Mexico immersion trip. After the trip to Mexico, using ausing a retrospective survey model, students were asked to rate their knowledge and skill levelsAFTERthe immersion experiences in Mexico's fresh produce market and farm-to-table practices and thenBEFOREimmersion experiences. The evaluation was administered at the same time for both after and before using a 5-point scale ranging from very low, to low, to moderate, to high, and to very high knowledge and skill levels. Five students participated in these surveys. The following sections provide a description of each business or center those students visited, and the results from the rating levels for several of those businesses. Tour of Keken Pork Facilities and Processing Plant- Dedicated to the production and marketing of swine products. This facility has United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) certifications, as well as the Federally Inspected Type (TIF) Certification, which allows free transit in Mexican territory since itaccredits the company for the manufacture and distribution of meat products. BEFORE: 71.43% Very Low, 14.29% Low, 14.29% Moderate. AFTER: 28.5% Moderate, 14.29% High, 57.14% Very High. Yucatan Botanical Garden Tour BEFORE: 57.14% Very Low, 28.29% Low, 14.29% Moderate AFTER: 42.86% Moderate, 14.29% High, 42.86% Very High Yucatan Botanical Facilities Tour BEFORE: 42.86% Very Low, 42.86% Low,14.29% Moderate AFTER: 28.57% Moderate, 42.86% High, 28.57% Very High Yucatan Scientific Research Center -CICY(Centro de Investigation Científica de Yucatán), whose primary purpose is to carry out scientific research, distribute knowledge, generate, and transfer technology, and promote environmentally harmonious development in society.?Tour of OICY's Botanical Gardens; Visit facilities; Meet with Research Faculty BEFORE: 71.43% Very Low, 28.29% Low, AFTER: 14.29% Very Low, 14.29% Moderate, 42.86% High, 28.57% Very High Salinera Xtampu - Tour of sea salt extraction lagoons The salineras are managed by a group of fishermen who decided to revive the salt industry in the area, and thus, the cooperative Meyah Ta'ab was born. The cooperative is responsible for managing the salineras and has been successful in reviving the salt industry in the area. The salineras are known for their pink waters, which are a result of high salt concentrations and a crustacean called "Artemia Salina" that gives the water its pastel hue. The saltwater from the underground aquifer is pumped into shallow ponds and left to evaporate under the sun, leaving behindsalt crystals that are then harvested. The Salineras de Xtampu is also known as the Salineras de Telcha. BEFORE: 71.43% Very Low, 28.29% Low, AFTER: 14.29% Low, 28.57% Moderate, 28.57% High, 28.57% Very High Mundo Melifero -Bee Products(Yucatan honey, pollen, Royal Jelly, Propolis, Shampoo, soaps, lip balm and more!) BEFORE: 42.86% Very Low, 57.14% Low, AFTER: 14.29% Moderate, 85.71% Very High Mundo Melifero - Tour of Honey bee Processing Facility BEFORE: 42.86% Very Low, 57.14% Low, AFTER: 14.29% Moderate, 85.71% Very High From the results above, students rated their knowledge and skills as improving after being exposed to the measured subjects. These businesses and research agencies challenged their knowledge, promoted curiosity, and engaged students in critical thinking activities regarding agricultural research and production.