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NIFA Update — October 14, 2010

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.


  • NIFA Implements Organizational Structure

  • NIFA Awards Ceremony Honors Employees of the Year

  • Sureshwaran Receives A.J. Dye Award for Diversity

  • NIFA Partnership Award Winners

  • Elrod New NPL for Extension Military Support Programs

  • NIFA Awards Enhance the Nutritional Quality of Food Aid Products

  • NIFA/NSF Announce Awards for Disaster Resilience in Rural Communities

  • NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications



  • Vilsack Announces Selection of Global Research Alliance Borlaug Fellows to Work with U.S. Scientists on Combating Climate Change

  • New Study Shows Benefits of Bt Corn to Farmers

  • USDA Participates in 4-H National Youth Science Day

  • USDA Agencies to Join Scientific Networking System

  • USDA Announces Funding for Cooperatives to Create Jobs and Nurture Rural Business Development 

  • New USDA Study Shows Extent of Land Degradation and Recovery on Western Rangelands



  • NIFA Grantsmanship Workshops



  • 2010 FCS Program Leader’s Meeting Proceedings

  • SARE Symposium


Awards and Recognition

  • Benning Receives Friend of NEAFCS Award

  • NYC 4-H’er Finalist at World Food Prize Institute


NIFA Implements Organizational Structure

The new organizational structure for NIFA was implemented on October 1, 2010. The mission statement of NIFA is “To Lead Food and Agricultural Sciences to Create a Better Future for the Nation and the World.” The broad expectation is that NIFA will enhance the stature and impact of food, agricultural, and natural resource sciences and ultimately grow support for agricultural research, education, and extension. The new organizational charts are located on NIFAs web site.

NIFA Awards Ceremony Honors Employees of the Year

Paulette Smith, Administrative Support – Smith, head secretary for the Competitive Programs Unit, was recognized for outstanding service to NIFA and its customers, going the “extra mile” to ensure customer expectations are met or exceeded. She was cited for:

  • coordinating the work of other unit secretaries – ensuring tasks and assignments are completed in a timely and accurate manner and they operate as a team;

  • providing customer service – looking for answers to vague questions and odd information requests; and

  • creating spreadsheets on her own initiative to help staff do their jobs and save time in reviewing and synthesizing information.

Larry Rutledge, Administrative and Technical – Rutledge, information technology specialist, was recognized for outstanding customer support assisting with the use of electronic grants software for improvement of effectiveness and efficiency of operational procedures supporting NIFA grants processing. He was cited for:

  • managing NIFA’s grants automation systems, including C-REEMS, Grants Application Connector, the Peer Review System, the Communications and Distribution system, Grants.gov, Oracle Discoverer, and more;

  • organizing and conducting outreach sessions with the NIFA user community, transitioning the staff into the latest IT breakthroughs to achieve NIFA’s mission;

  • providing a support environment for daily activities revolving around grant system processing and championing for the use of new technology in reducing agency burden through automation; and

  • developing and implementing the new Peer Review System panel summary functionality, greatly reducing the workload and travel requirements.

Carmela Bailey, Science and Education – Bailey is national program leader (NPL) for agricultural materials, was recognized for outstanding leadership, effectiveness, customer service, and role model as an NPL supporting biobased products and bioenergy programs. She was cited for:

  • leadership roles as an exceptional NPL and senior advisor on biobased products and bioenergy for the REE mission area;

  • seeking to understand and raise awareness of stakeholder accomplishments;

  • representing NIFA on many USDA and government-wide working groups and advisory boards, including the Biomass Research and Development Initiative Interagency Sustainability Working Group; the Biobased Product and Bioenergy Coordination Council; the Agricultural Bioenergy and Biobased Product Research, Education, and Extension Advisory Council; The Energy Council Coordination Committee; The USDA Chief Scientist’s Bioenergy Science Team; and her recent testimony before Congress; and

  • leading the USDA/Department of Energy Joint Biomass Research and Development Initiative.

Sureshwaran Receives A.J. Dye Award for Diversity

Suresh Sureshwaran, national program leader for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grants program in the Competitive Programs Unit, received the A.J. Dye Award for Diversity for enhancing NIFA’s ability to address the needs of its diverse stakeholders by building their capacity to access agency programs and by creating new coalitions, programs, and partnerships in support of these target populations.

Sureshwaran has strived to enhance diversity in agricultural research, education, and extension/outreach. He has worked with many diverse stakeholders in the nation who are underrepresented in our programs, including minorities, women, and limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers, small business, and students. As a result of his initiatives, there is an increased level of cooperation with minority-serving institutions, small businesses, and community-based organizations and nongovernmental organizations that represent limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers and, in turn, more efficient and effective delivery of programs to diverse stakeholders. Specific citations include:

  • greater acceptance of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program among the diverse and often opposing or differing constituencies;

  • increased effectiveness in awarding and managing grants to minority-serving institutions;

  • increased productivity of the National Needs Graduate Fellowships program (by allowing new institutions to train minority students for doctoral education and/or for employment in the agribusiness industry);

  • increased effectiveness in the SBIR program’s ability to meet the needs of diverse stakeholders;

  • increased effectiveness and magnitude of federal resources to address NIFA initiatives on disaster resilience; and

  • reduced time and financial expenditure to enhance services to underrepresented groups through innovative use of technology.

NIFA Partnership Award Winners

Mission Integration Award – University of Nevada, Reno.  The Family Storyteller Team was cited for making a positive and measurable difference in helping parents play a vital role in the literacy development of their children.
Multistate Efforts Award – University of Illinois.  The National Food MarketMaker Project was cited for giving consumers better access to fresh, local foods and farmers more opportunities for profitability through a successful, multistate partnership..

Innovative Program Models Award – University of California, Davis.  The National Plant Diagnostic Network received the award for developing preparedness programs and interagency partnerships that enhance security of crop agriculture in the United States.

Effective and Efficient Use of Resources Award – University of Vermont.  The eXtension HorseQuest Leadership Team was cited for developing and sustaining Web content and a resource team of national experts who provide innovative equine educational resources.

Elrod New NPL for Extension Military Support Programs

Brent Elrod is the new NIFA national program leader for Extension Military Support Programs. He will provide national leadership and coordination of NIFA military partnerships that support programs for service members, their families, and veterans. 

Since 2008, Elrod has developed and administered programs that strengthen military families across multiple domains and systems, including family safety and preservation, quality child care and youth development, substance abuse prevention, community capacity building, and Wounded Warrior and Survivor Support initiatives. During the past year, he helped roll out a new Department of Defense/USDA Partnership that expands the capacity of the Land-Grant University and Cooperative Extension Systems to support the military community. He represents NIFA on the Interagency Policy Committee on Military Families, the Federal Partners Priority Work Group on the Reintegration Needs of Returning Service Members and Families, and USDA’s interdepartmental effort to support veterans in the USDA workforce. Elrod is located in Room 4319, Waterfront Centre, and can be reached at 202-609-3468.

NIFA Awards Enhance the Nutritional Quality of Food Aid Products

WASHINGTON, September 30, 2010 – NIFA awarded nearly $3.8 million to develop healthier food products for humanitarian assistance programs. “The United States is a major supplier of food aid, feeding millions of people around the world who are suffering during emergency situations,” said Roger Beachy, NIFA director. “These projects will improve the nutritional quality of food aid products these people depend on for survival.”
NIFA’s Food Aid Nutrition Enhancement Program (FANEP) supports the development and field testing of new ready-to-use foods, fortified blended foods, high-energy foods, micronutrient powders or other food products designed to improve the nutritional delivery and functional form of humanitarian food assistance. Projects funded by FANEP may also field test existing food products that have not yet been approved for use in food aid programs.

FY 2010 awards were made to Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and international nonprofit PATH. JHU received more than $2.7 million to introduce and test three specially formulated foods for children ages 6-24 months in Bangladesh, where childhood under-nutrition is especially prevalent. PATH received $1 million to test their product, Ultra Rice, in Burundi. Ultra Rice is a rice fortification technology that has been shown to affordably increase micronutrients within manufactured rice. Visit the NIFA newsroom to read the full release USDA Awards Enhance the Nutritional Quality of Food Aid Products.

NIFA/NSF Announce Awards for Disaster Resilience in Rural Communities

WASHINGTON, October 5, 2010 – NIFA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded seven grants to enhance the capacity of rural communities to respond to and recover from natural disasters, an investment that has been largely neglected in recent years.“While NSF has previously funded several projects on disaster resilience, this is a new area of research for NIFA,” said Roger Beachy, NIFA director. “By joining with NSF, we are not only increasing funding for research on disaster resilience, but are also combining the expertise of the larger research community to address the unique needs of our rural areas.”

NIFA and NSF identified disaster resilience as a potential joint program after Hurricane Katrina’s devastating impact on the Gulf Coast. One of the newly funded projects involves building an index of rural community resilience, applying the index to the Gulf Coast, and exploring differences between urban, rural, coastal and non-coastal counties. Another study is developing a new place-based vulnerability/resilience index and a disaster resilience tool kit. Visit the NIFA Newsroom to read the full release NIFA/NSF Announce Awards from the Competition on Disaster Resilience in Rural Communities.

NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications

Funding Opportunity Closing Date Contact

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program (AFRI)

See individual grant program.

See individual grant program.

Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR)

See individual grant program.

See individual grant program.

Children, Youth, and Families at Risk Sustainable Community Projects

November 10, 2010

Lisa Lauxman

Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program

November 17, 2010

Elizabeth Tuckermanty

Biomass Research and Development Initiative Competitive Grants Program (BRDI)

November 17, 2010

Carmela Bailey

Robotics Technology Development and Deployment [RTD2] (R43)

Letter of Intent Due
November 20, 2010

Daniel Schmoldt

Regional Integrated Pest Mgt. - North Central

November 22, 2010

Michael Fitzner

Regional Integrated Pest Mgt. - Northeastern

November 22, 2010

Michael Fitzner

Regional Integrated Pest Mgt. - Southern

November 22, 2010

Michael Fitzner

Regional Integrated Pest Mgt. - Western

November 22, 2010

Michael Fitzner

NIFA advertises all of its funding opportunities through “Find Grant Opportunities” on the Grants.gov website. 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.


Vilsack Announces Selection of Global Research Alliance Borlaug Fellows to Work with U.S. Scientists on Combating Climate Change

WASHINGTON, October 8, 2010 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA has selected 10 researchers from seven developing countries to work side-by-side with U.S. scientists on climate change mitigation research. These fellows were selected under the Global Research Alliance Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship (Borlaug Fellows) Program.

The 10 researchers, two each from Chile, India, and Malaysia, and one each from Ghana, Mexico, the Philippines, and Vietnam, have chosen the following areas in which to conduct their research: developing tools for greenhouse gas and carbon sequestration assessments; mitigating greenhouse gas emissions in crop, grazing, or confined animal production systems; and developing databases and strategies for synthesis, integration, and decision support to manage greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration in agricultural systems. Each researcher will work closely with a U.S. scientist located at one of 10 U.S. universities or USDA Agricultural Research Service facilities for up to 3 months in their targeted area of research. One fellowship begins this fall; the rest begin in spring 2011. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release Vilsack Announces Selection of Global Research Alliance Borlaug Fellows to Work with U.S. Scientists on Combating Climate Change.

New Study Shows Benefits of Bt Corn to Farmers

WASHINGTON, October 7, 2010 - A group of agricultural scientists reported in the journal Science that corn that has been genetically engineered to produce insect-killing proteins isolated from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) provides significant economic benefits even to neighboring farmers who grow non-transgenic varieties of corn.

The researchers estimate that farmers in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin received cumulative economic benefits of nearly $7 billion between 1996-2009 with benefits of more than $4 billion for non-Bt corn farmers alone. The scientists estimated that in Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin, borer populations in adjacent non-Bt fields declined by 28 to 73 percent, with similar reductions recorded in Iowa and Nebraska. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release New Study Shows Benefits of Bt Corn to Farmers.

USDA Participates in 4-H National Youth Science Day

WASHINGTON, October 6, 2010 - USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan joined hundreds of thousands of young people as they simultaneously conducted the 2010 National Science Experiment, organized by 4-H as part of its science and technology initiative and supported by 4-H’s One Million New Scientists, One Million New Ideas campaign. The campaign hopes to grow the number of students entering science and technology careers by 1 million by 2013.

Between 2010 and 2015, there will be an estimated 54,000 U.S. job openings in food, renewable energy, and the environment, and organizations like 4-H play an important role in getting students interested in science and on track for careers in these critical areas.

Merrigan was joined by Ann Bartuska, Deputy Under Secretary for USDA’s Research, Education, and Economics mission area, and some 200 Washington-area school kids in conducting the 2010 National Science Experiment. The experiment, developed this year by North Carolina A&T University, will teach young people how increased amounts of carbon dioxide can affect aquatic animals, plants, and other living organisms in lakes, streams, rivers and oceans. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release USDA Participates in 4-H National Youth Science Day.

USDA Agencies to Join Scientific Networking System

WASHINGTON, October 4, 2010 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture is the first federal organization to commit to using VIVO, a Web application designed to enable better national networking between scientists from different disciplines and locations. VIVO provides a powerful Web search tool for connecting researchers, funding institutions, students, administrators, and others with an interest in research. The idea is to link researchers with peers and potential collaborators. This efficient networking tool will enable scientists to more easily locate others with particular expertise or specialized research that may contribute to the success of a project. VIVO also will make it possible to quickly identify scientific expertise to address an emerging pest or disease, or to rapidly mobilize response on a scientific issue.

USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Economic Research Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service, and Forest Service will be the first five USDA agencies to participate in VIVO. The National Agricultural Library, which is part of ARS, will host the Web application.

VIVO is funded by a $12.2 million grant from the National Center for Research Resources, part of the National Institutes of Health, to the University of Florida and collaborators at Cornell University, Indiana University, Weill Cornell Medical College, Washington University in St. Louis, the Scripps Research Institute, and the Ponce School of Medicine in Puerto Rico. The grant was provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release USDA Agencies to Join Scientific Networking System.

USDA Announces Funding For Cooperatives to Create Jobs and Nurture Rural Business Development 

WASHINGTON, October 5, 2010 - Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager announced support to help rural cooperatives expand economic activity in their communities. The Under Secretary made the announcement on behalf of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during a speech marking October as National Cooperative Month.

The funding is provided through USDA's Rural Cooperative Development Grant program. Tonsager highlighted several cooperative projects and acknowledged the efforts of co-op officials from across the country. According to the National Cooperative Business Association, the nation's 30,000 cooperatives account for more than $650 billion in revenue and more than 2 million jobs. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release USDA Announces Funding for Cooperatives to Create Jobs and Nurture Rural Business Development.

New USDA Study Shows Extent of Land Degradation and Recovery on Western Rangelands

WASHINGTON, October 1, 2010 - USDA released a new study by scientists and conservationists showing that non-federal rangelands in the Western United States are productive, but that non-native grasses and shrubs pose a potential threat to the rangelands' productivity. The study, which was published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, was the result of collaboration between two USDA agencies—the Agricultural Research Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service—and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The study reveals that less than 25 percent of non-federal rangelands have significant land degradation but that non-native plant species now occur on nearly 50 percent of all non-federal rangeland. While some of these species have significant benefits for soil conservation, others have negative effects. The study evaluated more than 10,000 field plots across western rangelands using National Resources Inventory data, a statistical survey designed to help gauge natural resource status, conditions, and trends on U.S. non-federal land. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release New USDA Study Shows Extent of Land Degradation and Recovery on Western Rangelands.


NIFA Grantsmanship Workshops

There are two NIFA Grantsmanship Workshops scheduled for November 30–December 1, 2010, and January 25-26, 2011, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, VA.

The Southern Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors and Virginia Tech University will host both workshops. NIFA staff responsible for the administration of the various programs will make the presentations.

Travel grants are available, on a competitively-awarded basis, to individuals from minority-serving institutions. Deadlines for travel grant applications are September 30 for Session 1 and November 10 for Session 2. Please notify your faculty, post-doctoral trainees, and other interested individuals of these important dates. Visit the official website for more information.


2010 FCS Program Leader’s Meeting Proceedings

The 2010 Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) Leaders Meeting was held September 22-23, in conjunction with the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences annual session in Portland, ME. Hosted by NIFA, the FCS Leaders’ meeting brought together administrators from land-grant universities around the nation working in Family and Consumer Sciences. The meeting is held annually for FCS leaders to network and share strategies, research, and programs that address contemporary and emerging FCS issues. Event proceedings are available on the NIFA website.

SARE Symposium

Recently, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program cosponsored the symposium at the National Press Club, “Implementing the Recommendations of the National Research Council Report, Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century.” Audio recordings and PowerPoint presentations from the symposium are available on the SARE website. There were energetic presentations from multiple perspectives coupled with general agreement to accelerate and expand progress toward sustainable agricultural systems.

Other symposium sponsors included the National Academies National Research Council, Farm Foundation, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Organic Farming Research Foundation, and the following USDA agencies: NIFA, Agricultural Research Service, Economic Research Service, National Agricultural Statistics Service, and the Office of the Chief Economist.


Benning Receives Friend of NEAFCS Award

Linda Kay Benning received the Friend of National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS) Award at the 2010 annual meeting in Portland, ME. Initiated in 2005, the annual Friend of NEAFCS Award is the highest honor bestowed by the association in recognition of an individual or organization who has made significant contributions to Extension Family and Consumer Science education programs nationally. Past recipients include Anna-Mae Kobbe, retired USDA; Senator Charles Grassley, Iowa; Tawnia True, Procter and Gamble; and Jeanne Priester, retired USDA. Benning is the associate director, extension and outreach, and the executive director, Northeast Cooperative Extension Directors for the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. She has served in numerous state and federal positions during her career.

NYC 4-H’er Finalist at World Food Prize Institute

Lazarus Lynch, New York City (NYC) 4-H’er and Food and Finance High School student was selected as one of four exceptional student finalists in the World Food Prize/New York Youth’s Institute’s Global Issues essay competition held at Cornell University. As a result, Lynch and former NYC 4-H program assistant and current Cornell graduate student Maryse Holly will attend the Global Youth Institute in Des Moines, IA, October 13–15. Alongside 200 outstanding high school students from across the globe, Lynch will have the opportunity to interact with Nobel and World Food Prize Laureates and the more than 600 global leaders attending the World Food Prize’s annual international symposium. Lynch was one of six NYC 4-H’ers from three different clubs participating in the World Food Prize essay competition. Contact Jackie Davis-Manigaulte, family & youth development program leader for Cornell University Cooperative Extension NYC, 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 27. Submit news items to mailto:newsletter@nifa.usda.gov by October 20. Editor:  Judy Rude, public affairs specialist, NIFA Communications Staff. If you have questions about Update, please contact her.

To subscribe or unsubscribe to this newsletter, please send an e-mail message to Judy Rude. In the body of the message, type: subscribe nifa-update OR unsubscribe nifa-update.  Back issues of NIFA UPDATE are available on the NIFA website.

Roger Beachy, Director

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