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NIFA Update — October 15, 2009

NIFA Update, from the Office of the Director, is a biweekly newsletter for research, education, and extension partners at land-grant universities and other cooperating institutions.


  • From the Director
  • CSREES-to-NIFA Transition Takes Place
  • Secretary of Agriculture and White House Science Advisor Launch NIFA at Press Club
  • NIFA Welcomes Jermelina Tupas as New Higher Education Director
  • Final CSREES Awards Ceremony Honors Employees of the Year
  • McLaren Wins A.J. Dye Award for Diversity
  • CSREES Names Partnership Award Winners
  • NIFA News
  • NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications


  • Secretary Vilsack Launches National School Lunch Week
  • Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Number of Farmers Markets Grows to More Than 5,200 Nationwide
  • Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces $1.7 Billion in Conservation Reserve Program Rental Payments
  • Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces $190 Million for Rural Water Projects
  • Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Funding to 1890 Land-Grant Institutions to Promote Jobs and Business Growth


  • Georgia CYFAR Helps With H1N1 Test
  • 5th National Small Farm Conference


  • 2010 Priester National Extension Health Conference


From the Director

It has been nearly two weeks since I arrived at USDA as the Director of NIFA and, like most new employees of any organization, have spent most of this time meeting staff and gathering pertinent information. From the first ‘all hands’ meeting to the daily meetings with administrative leaders of the organization I have been extremely impressed with the friendly reception, willingness to be helpful, and preparedness for change. I am especially grateful to Colien Hefferen who is daily a reminder of the strength of the Agency, and the guide for much of the preparedness. Thank you, Colien!

During the upcoming weeks I will work with the leadership of NIFA (currently comprised of CSREES administrative leaders) to develop an overall strategy that will guide the establishments of the sub-institutes of NIFA. This will, in turn, allow the team to determine where specific projects and directed funding will be managed. It will also lead to selection of the directors of each of the institutes, writing of mission statements, etc., that will help to define each institute.
As you can see, I am drawing on the many years of experience within the Agency to define NIFA, adding my own experiences and learnings from previous positions, and those that come from the priorities of the President, Secretary Vilsack, and Undersecretary Shah. I ask for your patience as well as input as we go through our work.  And, while I want to see the organization of NIFA as quickly as you do, it is more important to do it right than it is to do it quickly.  Thanks in advance for your patience.

Roger Beachy, Director

CSREES-to-NIFA Transitions Takes Place

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) opened for business on October 1, as mandated by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, section 7511(f), or Public Law 110-246 (Farm Bill). All Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) authorities, duties, and obligations transferred to NIFA on that date.

NIFA’s new Director, Dr. Roger Beachy, founding president of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, joined the agency on October 5.  Colien Hefferan, former CSREES Administrator, will serve on Beachy’s staff in an advisory capacity.

Secretary of Agriculture and White House Science Advisor Launch NIFA at Press Club

WASHINGTON, October 8, 2009 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today launched the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) with a major speech regarding the role of science and research at USDA. At an event at the National Press Club with John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Vilsack outlined his vision for addressing the some of the world's major challenges over the coming decades.

Below are excerpts from Vilsack's prepared remarks:

"USDA science needs to change to respond to these pressures, to ensure the sustainability of the American food, fuel, and fiber system and to address some of America's – and the world's – most intractable problems. Ultimately, our success in science has to be matched by impact in society. Already [Under Secretary of Research, Education, and Economics Raj Shah] has begun an in-depth and systematic analysis of our research programs, their goals, and their outcomes to help me better match available resources to critical outcomes for solving national and international problems.

"Formed in the main from the existing Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, NIFA will be the Department's extramural research enterprise. It is no exaggeration to say that NIFA will be a research "start-up" company – we will be rebuilding our competitive grants program from the ground up to generate real results for the American people. To lead NIFA, President Obama has tapped a preeminent plant scientist from the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis – Roger N. Beachy, winner of the Wolf Prize in Agriculture and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

"President Obama this spring pledged to invest more heavily in the nation's basic sciences, and to commit as much as 3 percent of America's GDP to science. Agricultural science needs to be part of that strategic investment strategy. Focus, scale, and impact – these are the levers Raj, Roger, and I will use to launch a new paradigm for the science that underpins our food, agriculture, and natural resources systems research.”

Visit the NIFA Newsroom to view the full release or watch a video of the NIFA launch event.

NIFA Welcomes Jermelina Tupas as New Higher Education Director

Jermelina Tupas joined NIFA as the Higher Education Programs Director on October 13.  Tupas brings to NIFA her science administrative experiences from working at two other federal agencies as well as her research and teaching experiences as a faculty member at a land-grant institution. 

Tupas was a program director in the Division of Minority Opportunities in Research, at the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of General Medical Sciences, where she managed a portfolio of student training and development programs whose overall goal is to increase the number of underrepresented groups in the sciences who will eventually obtain Ph.D. degrees in biomedical sciences. She also developed and managed a program that helps keep baccalaureate graduates in the science education pipeline. Before working at NIH, she was a program director at the National Science Foundation's Biological Sciences Directorate, Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, where she managed research projects in the area of signal transduction. She was also involved in the efforts of this directorate in broadening participation of underrepresented groups in the biological sciences.  Prior to that, she was a professor of molecular endocrinology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she also carried out her research on transcriptional regulation and signal transduction of the human relaxin hormones.  Her 22 publications include peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and abstracts in conference proceedings. She was also the program director for the Minority Access to Research Careers Undergraduate Student Training in Academic and Research (MARC U*STAR) at the University of Hawaii, Manoa.

Tupas earned a bachelor's degree in zoology and a master's degree in microbiology from the University of the Philippines, Diliman, and a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Tokyo, Japan.

Final CSREES Awards Ceremony Honors Employees of the Year

LaTracey Arrington, Administrative Support – Arrington, program assistant for Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) programs in the Competitive Programs, was recognized for outstanding administrative support and excellent customer service.  Arrington was cited for:

  • performance on the planning team for the SBIR Commercialization Workshop and Research, Education, and Economics (REE) Energy Meeting;
  • responsibility for obtaining and processing time and attendance for SBIR panel managers;
  • providing program support for two high-profile panels for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program due to the absence of the assigned program assistant; and
  • maintaining the SBIR electronic inbox, processing interim and final reports, and processing no-cost extension, budget, and personnel change requests from SBIR awardees.

Kathy Kimble-Day, Administrative and Technical – Kimble-Day, program specialist in the Plant System Section, was recognized for her key contributions in three programmatic areas:

  • developing Request For Applications (RFA) for 21 programs;
  • transitioning the staff in PAS to electronic submission of applications through Grants.gov; and
  • developing policies and procedures for the implementation of new competitive grants programs.

Gregory Smith, Science and Education – Smith is national program leader for Secondary and 2-Year Postsecondary Agriculture Education Challenge Grant program (SPEC), which Congress recently expanded to include K-12, nonprofit organizations, and institutes of higher learning.  He also administers the new Rural Technology Enhancement grant program.  In addition to managing ongoing programs, Smith was recognized for:

  • leadership roles as acting Higher Education Director and acting Deputy Administrator of Science and Education Resources Development;
  • working closely with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities in administering the Excellence in Teaching Awards;
  • panel management for the first year of the Specialty Crop initiative; and
  • membership on the NIFA transition’s Functions and Configurations team.

McLaren Wins A.J. Dye Award for Diversity

Antonio McLaren, program specialist in the Economic and Community Systems Unit, has won the 2009 A.J. Dye Award for Diversity for his sustained Departmental leadership of the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum Diversity Program and his service to CSREES as chair of the Agency’s Diversity Working Group (DWG).

Under McLaren’s leadership, the Ag Outlook Forum’s Diversity Program grew from 10 undergraduate students participating in 2007, to 17 in 2008, and to 18 in 2009.  His involvement with the students – from arranging personal meetings with the Secretary of Agriculture and other key Department leaders, a private press briefing, and meetings with industry leaders – has lead to some participating students receiving internships in both government and industry and others to refine their educational goals to include graduate degrees in the food and agricultural sciences.
At the Agency level, McLaren lead the DWG’s delivery of programs in all categories, including those that address generational diversity, women in agriculture, Federal Holocaust Remembrance, and a brown-bag discussion on gay and lesbian awareness.

CSREES Names Partnership Award Winners

Mission Integration Award – Kansas State University’s Integrated Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies Team earned this award for leadership in integrating research, education, and extension to address watershed restoration and protection.

Multistate Efforts Award – Change Agents States for Diversity Initiative earned the award for developing successful modes and systematic change strategies that support greater diversity and welcoming climates throughout the Land-Grant University System.

Innovative Program Models Award – Washington State University’s Climate Friendly Farming earned this award for a model program integrating cutting-edge research with highly-effective extension engagement to deliver important and measurable economic and environmental impacts.

Effective and Efficient Use of Resources Award – Extension Disaster Education Network earned the award for the collaboration of land-grant university professionals that provide exemplary resources through Cooperative Extension to reduce the impact of disasters through education.


USDA Awards $11 Million for Applied Plant Genomics Research, Education and Extension

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2009 – Agriculture Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics Rajiv Shah today announced more than $11 million in Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP) awards to significantly advance research, education and extension in applied plant genomics.

"CAP grants represent an investment in improving the human condition,” Shah said. "These research dollars yield the best returns because we are focusing on the areas we know advances have a high likelihood for real impact.”

Visit the NIFA Newsroom to view the entire release.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Highlights Healthcare Disparities in Rural America

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2009 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced more than $1.5 million in grants to support the Rural Health and Safety Education Program, which helps rural families cope with aging, eldercare and caregiving, and rural healthcare. Vilsack also today noted the healthcare disparity that exists for those who live in rural America.
“Almost one in four Americans living in towns with less than 2,500 people have no health insurance coverage, and it’s this disparity that demonstrates the need for health reform in our country,” Vilsack said. “President Obama and I are committed to helping revitalize rural America and building strong, robust communities and reforming our healthcare system will help further that goal.”

Visit the NIFA Newsroom to view the entire release.

4-H National Headquarters and National 4-H Council Sign Memorandum of Understanding

WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 22, 2009 – 4-H National Headquarters and National 4-H Council (Council) signed a memorandum of understanding today signaling a renewed commitment between both organizations to jointly advocate for the 4-H Youth Development Program and the Cooperative Extension System.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture, through 4-H National Headquarters, agrees to administer a cohesive 4-H program with the land-grant universities to advance the 4-H Youth Development Program through professional and volunteer development, research and evaluation, curricular development, policies and procedures.

Visit the NIFA Newsroom to view the entire release.

NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications

Funding Opportunity

Closing Date


Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program (AFRI)

See individual grant program.

See individual grant program.

Children, Youth, and Families at Risk Sustainable Community Projects

October 23, 2009

Suzanne Le Menestrel

Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program

November 19, 2009

Elizabeth Tuckermanty

Disaster Resilience for Rural Communities

January 20, 2010

Siva Sureshwaran

NIFA advertises all of its funding opportunities through "Find Grant Opportunities" on the Grants.gov Web site. This site is searchable and contains summary information on all federal funding opportunities with links to the full announcements. Users can search announcements by topic, funding agency, and date, as well as subscribe to an e-mail notification service based on these parameters.

Secretary Vilsack Launches National School Lunch Week

KNOXVILLE, Iowa, October 12, 2009 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today launched the start of National School Lunch Week by highlighting efforts to improve school nutrition, combat childhood obesity, and encourage healthy lifestyles through USDA's Healthier U.S. School Challenge. During a visit to West Elementary School in Knoxville, Iowa, Secretary Vilsack congratulated the school on achieving ‘Gold’ status in USDA’s Healthier US School Challenge. To receive this designation, West Elementary School exceeded existing standards by providing healthier food choices, nutrition education, and physical activity to its students.

"USDA is committed to promoting nutrition standards and providing our children well-balanced, healthy meals during their school day," said Vilsack. "Lunches provided by the National School Lunch Program are a vital resource that help children develop healthy eating and lifestyle choices that will be with them for a lifetime."

Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces $1.7 Billion in Conservation Reserve Program Rental Payments

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2009 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA will distribute approximately $1.7 billion in Conservation Reserve Program rental payments to participants across the country in fiscal year 2010.

"President Obama and I are committed to conservation and environmental stewardship and this program provides the tools and resources to enable America's producers to be responsible caretakers of their land," said Vilsack. "I encourage interested producers to consider enrolling their land through continuous sign-up opportunities."

 Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces $190 Million for Rural Water Projects

WASHINGTON, October 6, 2009 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the selection of $190 million in water and environmental project loans and grants that are being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Dallas Tonsager, Under Secretary for Rural Development, made the announcement on behalf of Vilsack during a speech at the National Rural Water Association meeting in Louisville, KY.

"Recovery Act projects are putting people to work and helping rural communities of all sizes build a foundation for economic strength and future prosperity," said Tonsager. "The 27 water and wastewater projects we're announcing today are helping to achieve the Obama Administration's economic recovery goals to rebuild and revitalize the nation's infrastructure while creating or retaining jobs."

Altogether, USDA has announced $1.8 billion for water and environmental project loans and grants, benefiting people throughout the country.

Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Funding to 1890 Land-Grant Institutions to Promote Jobs and Business Growth

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2009 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the selection of 15 historically African-American land-grant educational institutions in 14 states to receive $1.5 million in economic development and business promotion grants.

"These funds help provide entrepreneurship training and benefits to rural youth," Vilsack said. "President Obama believes our nation's economic competitiveness and the path to the American dream depend on providing every student with an education that will enable them to succeed in a global economy. Using these funds, students will learn to take advantage of existing economic development opportunities in their communities - such as renewable energy resources - as well as the vast business knowledge and connections that these schools and their faculty members have."

Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Number of Farmers Markets Grows to More Than 5,200 Nationwide

WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2009 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the number of farmers markets in the United States is up more than 13 percent from a year ago. A recent update of the online Farmers Market Directory lists 5,274 markets nationwide, up from 4,685 reported in 2008.

"Farmers markets assure that consumers have easier access to local fruits and vegetables and this growth demonstrates incredible interest consumers have in purchasing from local producers," said Vilsack. "Farmers market also connects the community to the local farmers who produce the fresh food, and play an important role in the direct marketing of produce to local consumers."

USDA's support of farmers markets is just one component of the 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative to help develop local and regional food systems and spur economic opportunity. By successfully restoring the link between consumers and local producers there can be new income opportunities for farmers and wealth can be generated that will stay in rural communities. There also can be a greater focus on sustainable agricultural practices and families can better access healthy, fresh, locally grown food.

Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.

Georgia CYFAR Helps With H1N1 Test

Georgia Cooperative Extension’s Children, Youth and Families at Risk Sustainable Community Project (CYFAR-SCP) assisted the National Issues Forum (NIFI) by organizing people in Elberton, Ga., to help test the framing of an issue guide related to what families can do to prepare for an H1N1 pandemic. 

Sharon Gibson, CYFAR-SCP director, and Christa Campbell, Elbert County family and consumer sciences agent, connected with people in Elberton who were willing at the last moment to meet and give  their time and thoughtful ideas. Community Partnership of Elbert County employees Laura Evans, Kathy Lee, and Kathy Franklin were invaluable in their assistance. 

Results of the test became part of the report to the Charles F. Kettering Foundation, which lead the testing.  The foundation then used this report to notify the Departments of Health and Education about how citizens are thinking on this critical issue.  For more information, visit www.nifi.org.

5th National Small Farm Conference

More than 630 participants from land-grant colleges and universities, community-based organizations, producers, federal officials, and program managers from across the nation, attended the 5th National Small Farm Conference, September 15-17.  The conference consisted of two general sessions and 28 breakout sessions with 130 speakers, 70 exhibit displays, 50 poster presentations, and 7educational tours in and around Central Illinois.

The year’s theme, “Road Map to Success for Small Farmers and Ranchers,” featured keynote speaker. Ann Wright, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs.  Wright shared key small farm highlights that are included in the current farm bill.
The conference proceedings will be released in early 2010.  Information about the 5th conference is available online.  Proceedings of the past four conferences are also available. Contact Denis Ebodaghe, NIFA national program leader, for more information.

2010 Priester National Extension Health Conference

Save the date April 20-22, 2010, for the 2010 Priester National Extension Health Conference, “Healthy People, Healthy Communities: Reducing Health Disparities,” at the Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel in Mobile, AL. The conference is co-sponsored by CSREES, Alabama Department of Public Health, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Southern Regional Program Leaders Network and SERA-19 Rural Health. Contact Laura Booth, Administrator for Outreach Programs, CES-Family & Consumer Sciences, Auburn University, AL, for more information.

For a plain text copy of this newsletter, please contact Judy Rude. NIFA UPDATE is published biweekly. The next NIFA issue is planned for October 14, 2009. Submit news items to newsletter@nifa.usda.gov by October 7.

Editor:  Judy Rude, public affairs specialist, NIFA Communications Staff. If you have questions about Update, please contact her at jrude@nifa.usda.gov.

To subscribe or unsubscribe to this newsletter, please send an e-mail message to jrude@nifa.usda.gov. In the body of the message, type: subscribe csrees-update OR unsubscribe csrees-update.  Back issues of NIFA UPDATE are available on the NIFA Web site.

Roger Beachy, Director

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and where applicable, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or part of an individual's income is derived from any public assistance program. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at 202-720-2600 (voice and TDD). To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call 800-795-3272 (voice) or 202-720-6382 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.