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NIFA Update —December 14, 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
  • SERD Welcomes New Data Analyst
  • Janice Clark Retires
  • NIFA Call for Nominations
  • Risk Management Education Program
  • NIFA News
  • NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications


  • New USDA Study Helps Identify Strategies to Improve Nutrition of School Meals
  • USDA Study Finds 54.9 Million Acres of U.S. Farmland Now Irrigated
  • USDA Launches Toll-Free Help Desk for Small Meat and Poultry Processors


  • 2010 Outlook Forum

Awards and Recognition

  • eXtension Financial Security Receives FDIC Award


From the Director

As we end 2009, I want to take a few minutes for us all to reflect on what we have accomplished together in the space of just the last few short months. Thanks to the planning and hard work you all did – here at NIFA, and with our partners – in preparation for this, we rolled out NIFA, and we did this without missing a beat, a deadline, or a deliverable. That would be amazing enough in the best of times, but we did this in a period of great economic uncertainty and at a time when the official wheels in Washington were busy grinding away on other issues. To have captured the attention of the White House and Congress for their support during this period, and to have Secretary Vilsack so closely and personally engaged in our work, was gratifying beyond words for me.

As we enter 2010, we do so with a new and clearer vision and expectations for what USDA science will accomplish. I’m personally very much looking forward to refining and implementing that vision, so eloquently shared at the NIFA launch in October, in the year to come.

I will have more to share in January’s Update about what 2010 is likely to bring in the way of new opportunities at NIFA for our programs and for our valued colleagues. In the meantime, I wish you and yours a happy and safe holiday season and a New Year that exceeds your greatest expectations!

Roger Beachy, Director

SERD Welcomes New Data Analyst

NIFA’s Science and Education Resources Development Unit welcomes Shane T. Ball who is now responsible for the Food & Agriculture Education Information System project. An Iowa native, Ball spent most of his life doing what he loves best – working in the areas of statistics, genetics, plant breeding, biophysics, precision farming, and remote sensing. He also enjoyed teaching science and mathematics at all educational levels. His career includes working in private industry as an information specialist and research/marketing data analyst. In academia, he served as an agronomy specialist, agricultural extension and research director, and cotton program director at New Mexico State University, Rutgers University, and the University of California–Davis, respectively.

Ball received his Ph.D. in breeding/genetics and statistics from Washington State University, a master’s in breeding/genetics and statistics from North Carolina State University, and bachelor’s degree in biology and mathematics from Sul Ross State University, Alpine, TX. He has written many refereed and Cooperative Extension Service publications and contributed to magazine, newspaper, and newsletter articles, and served as an expert for radio and TV news and educational videos. He can be reached at sball@nifa.usda.gov or phone 202-720-6346 and is located in Waterfront Centre Room 3277.

Janice Clark Retires

Janice Clark, NIFA program specialist with the Families, 4-H, and Nutrition Unit, is retiring after more than 34 years of federal service. She first joined USDA in 1975 as a secretary with the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), and then transferred to USDA’s Federal Grain Inspection Service. She then went back to AMS, and onto the Office of International Cooperation and Development, which finally led her to the Extension Service in 1986. She continued her service through the agency merger to form CSREES and now the transition into the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Throughout the years, Clark worked her way up the career ladder as a program specialist working with the Children, Youth, and Families at Risk, Rural Youth Development, and 4-H Partnerships programs.

NIFA Call for Nominations

NIFA is seeking nominations for the 2010 USDA National Awards Program for Excellence in University Teaching in the Food and Agricultural Sciences. This awards program honors innovation and excellence in teaching and is open to faculty in all the food and agricultural sciences disciplines. Recipients receive a stipend, plaque, and national recognition during the annual National Association of Public Land-grant Universities conference. For complete award program description, nomination guidelines, and nomination forms visit the NIFA Web site. Nominations must be received at NIFA no later than March 15, 2010.

Risk Management Education Program

NIFA awarded $4.8 million as part of the Agriculture Risk Management Education Competitive Grants program in November 2009. The purpose was to establish four regional risk management centers, and one electronic support center, which is known as the Digital Center for Risk Management Education. The objective of the centers is to educate agricultural producers on the full range of risk management strategies and tactics, including futures, options, agricultural trade options, crop insurance, cash forward contracting, debt reduction, production diversification, farm resources risk reduction, and other risk management strategies. The centers provide competitive funds to grantees that have the expertise to develop and deliver risk mitigation educational materials to producers. The four regional centers receive proposals and applications online, and the progress of individual grantees is also available. The Digital Center’s education programs provide a number of supporting services to the regional risk management education centers. The Digital Center's National Agricultural Risk Library archives final reports, which can be queried to provide data and reports to interested constituents, USDA, and Congress. Visit the NIFA’s Farm Financial Management Web site for more information on Risk Management Education programs.


USDA Awards More Than $14 Million for Training and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced that USDA is awarding more than $14 million in grants to organizations throughout the country that will provide training and assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and the Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation, Brinkley, AR, will each receive $300,000 in funding. The announcement was part of Merrigan’s keynote address at the South Central Regional Small Business Conference, the second in a series of small business conferences being held as part of USDA’s Food Commodity Contracting Opportunities for Rural America initiative.

Merrigan highlighted USDA’s Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers grant program which is administered by NIFA. Developed to provide increased opportunities for socially disadvantaged producers, the program enables socially disadvantaged producers to successfully acquire, own, operate, and retain farms and ranches, and to assure equitable participation in the full range of USDA programs. A socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher is one of a group whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice without regard to their individual qualities. Visit the NIFA Newsroom to read the full release USDA Awards More Than $14 Million for Training and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers.

NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications


Funding Opportunity

Closing Date


Regional Integrated Pest Management Competitive Grants Program - Western Region

December 17, 2009

Michael Fitzner

Regional Integrated Pest Management Competitive Grants Program – Southern Region

December 17, 2009

Michael Fitzner

Regional Integrated Pest Management Competitive Grants Program – Northeastern Region

December 17, 2009

Michael Fitzner

Regional Integrated Pest Management Program - North Central Region

December 17, 2009

Michael Fitzner

Assistive Technology Program for Farmers with Disabilities: State and Regional AgrAbility Projects

December 18, 2009

Bradley Rein

Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI)

January 14, 2010

Thomas (Tom) Bewick

Extension Integrated Pest Management Coordination and Support Program

January 14, 2010

Martin A. Draper

Secondary Education, 2-Year Postsecondary Education, and Agriculture in the K-12 Classroom Challenge Grants Program

January 15, 2010

Gregory Smith

Integrated Research, Education, and Extension Competitive Grants Program: National Integrated Food Safety Initiative

January 19, 2010

Jan Singleton

Disaster Resilience for Rural Communities

January 20, 2010

Siva Sureshwaran

Special Research Grants Program: Potato Breeding Research

January 20, 2010

Ann Marie Thro

Youth Farm Safety and Education Certification Program

January 21, 2010

Bradley Rein

International Science and Education Competitive Grants Program

January 28, 2010

Patricia Fulton

Increasing Scientific Data on the Fate, Transport and Behavior of Engineered Nanomaterials in Selected Environmental and Biological Matrices

February 2, 2010

Hongda Chen

Higher Education Challenge Grants

February 5, 2010

Gregory Smith

1890 Institution Teaching, Research and Extension Capacity Building Grants Program

February 8, 2010

Ali I. Mohamed

Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative

February 9, 2010

Mary Monnig Peet

Higher Education Program: Hispanic-Serving Institutions Education Grants Program

February 16, 2010

Irma Lawrence

New Era Rural Technology Competitive Grants Program (RTP)

April 14, 2010

Gregory Smith

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 email notification service based on these parameters.

New USDA Study Helps Identify Strategies to Improve Nutrition of School Meals

USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) released a study, Meeting Total Fat Requirements for School Lunches, which finds that many school policies and practices are associated with the fat content of meals they serve through the National School Lunch Program. An earlier USDA report had found that, while most schools met requirements for vitamins, protein, calcium, and iron, only one in five schools serve lunches that met the USDA standard for total fat (constituting 30 percent or less of the calories). School policies and practices linked to lower fat lunches include promotion of fresh fruits and vegetables or locally grown foods, offering low fat dairy products, eliminating vending machines in middle and high schools, and adopting a "nutrient content" or "enhanced food-based" meal planning method. Visit the ERS Web site to read the full study. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release New USDA Study Helps Identify Strategies to Improve Nutrition of School Meals.

USDA Study Finds 54.9 Million Acres of U.S. Farmland Now Irrigated

USDA's 2008 Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey has found that farmers and ranchers are now irrigating 54.9 million acres farmland across the United States, an increase of nearly 5 percent since 2003. USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service collected the data for the irrigation survey earlier this year. "Water is the most critical, limited resource for our nation's farmers and ranchers," said Molly Jahn, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics. "For farmers and ranchers who are looking for more efficient ways to irrigate their land and ways to reduce their expenses, the results of the Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey provide a valuable tool to help them make informed decisions about the future of their operations." The survey provides the most comprehensive source of up-to-date information regarding the U.S. agriculture industry's use and stewardship of our nation's water resources. The survey results show a continuing trend towards more efficient irrigation methods as farmers reported irrigating more acres with sprinkler systems and less with gravity irrigation. During the 5-year period since the last irrigation survey, the area irrigated by sprinkler systems increased 15 percent while the area with gravity irrigation decreased 5 percent. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release USDA Study Finds 54.9 Million Acres of U.S. Farmland Now Irrigated.

USDA Launches Toll-Free Help Desk for Small Meat and Poultry Processors

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced the opening of its new small plant help desk, which will provide direct access to knowledgeable staff specialists for operators of small and very small meat, poultry, and processed egg products establishments who are seeking help with agency requirements. The help desk also will provide assistance to state and local food regulatory agencies – FSIS' partners in keeping meat, poultry, and egg products safe for consumers. The help desk will support USDA's "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative by helping small processors reduce the time and expense of dealing with agency requirements. "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" is designed to continue the national conversation about developing local and regional food systems and finding ways to support small and mid-sized producers. It emphasizes the need for a fundamental and critical reconnection between producers and consumers, building on the 2008 Farm Bill to provide additional flexibility for USDA programs that promote local foods. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release USDA Launches Toll-Free Help Desk for Small Meat and Poultry Processors.

2010 Outlook Forum

The 2010 Agricultural Outlook Forum, Sustainable Agriculture: The Key to Health & Prosperit, is February 18-19, 2010, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott, in Arlington, VA. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will deliver the keynote address. Other speakers and panelists include: Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food -- Kathleen A. Merrigan, USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture; 2010 Foreign Trade Outlook -- Jim Miller, Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services; 2010 Agricultural Economic Outlook -- Joseph Glauber, USDA Chief Economist; Panel:  Walter Robb, Co-President & COO, Whole Foods Market; Fedele Bauccio, Chief Executive Officer, Bon Appétit Management Company; Nina Fedoroff, Science & Technology Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State and to the USAID Administrator; and Richard Schnieders, recently retired CEO Sysco Corporation. Visit the USDA Web site to register and more details.  

eXtension Financial Security Receives FDIC Award

The eXtension Financial Security for All Community of Practice (COP) received the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Chairman’s Award for Innovation in Financial Education at a National Press Club luncheon event on December 3 in Washington, DC. The award recognizes excellence and innovation in financial education and also highlights potentially replicable best practices. FDIC Chair Sheila Bair cited past COP Chair Debra Pankow, North Dakota State University; current Chair Patricia Swanson, Iowa State University; and Jane Schuchardt, NIFA advisor, for leading the development of the financial security segment of eXtension. These awards were the final component of the FDIC’s 75th anniversary observance.

For a plain text copy of this newsletter, please contact Judy Rude. NIFA UPDATE is published biweekly. The next NIFA issue is planned for January 20, 2010. Submit news items to newsletter@nifa.usda.gov by January 13, 2010.

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 nifa-update OR unsubscribe nifa-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.