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NIFA Update — May 20, 2011

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.


  • Farewell Message
  • NIFA Partnership Awards
  • USDA Awards Grant to Pennsylvania State University to Support Honey Bee Health Research
  • USDA, DOE Award Biomass Research and Development Grants
  • USDA Awards Grants to Improve Sustainable Food Systems and Reduce Hunger
  • NIFA in the News
  • NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications  



  • Independent Firm's Civil Rights Assessment of Program Delivery at USDA Makes Recommendations for Improvement, Notes Successes
  • USDA Announces Project to Encourage Development of Next-Generation Biofuels
  • USDA Introduces Mobile Ask Karen, Food Safety on Your Smartphone
  • USDA's Economic Research Service Marks 50th Anniversary
  • USDA Awards Additional MAP Funds to USMEF



  • Social Media Tools Used to Tell Cooperative Extension Story



  • Land-Grant Partners Host Conference on Value-Added Agriculture


Awards and Recognition

  • National Dietary Intake Objectives Group Honored



Farewell Message

It is late on Thursday afternoon, May 19, with my final day approaching and wondering how to say “so long” to all of you who have been a part of my life during the past 20 or so months. You have taught me much, and allowed me to have input at the same time. It has been an honor to be the first Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and to work with NIFA leadership to bring about the changes that some refer to as “transformational.” Some changes began before I arrived, either in advocating for the change or in planning to implement the changes from the 2008 Farm Bill. Thank you for being a partner with me as transformation was initiated; complete implementation will require more time, and may even seem to be a work in progress for several more years. Transformation is a process.

NIFA’s mission is among the most important of the research agencies in the federal research family. Successful outcomes of NIFA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Research, Education, and Economics Mission Area will ensure a sustainable future that provides a sufficient safe and nutritious food supply for the global population; that reduces our reliance on fossil energy; that adapts to changes in our environment; and that ensures and builds rural prosperity – all while ensuring that our natural resources are protected and enhanced. This will only be accomplished through research, education, extension, and outreach to those whom we serve.

NIFA’s goals are shared by many, and increasingly the impacts of NIFA- and USDA-sponsored research will be felt globally. As U.S. researchers grasp the importance of the global challenges and generate the knowledge that addresses the challenges, NIFA’s work will become more important. Greater global involvement by U.S. science, education, and extension increases the likelihood of food security, and with it increased national security. These are lofty outcomes, but certainly within the possible impacts of NIFA work.

NIFA is off to a great start; it will accomplish much in the future. I have every confidence that as NIFA completes its mandate, and in keeping with the goals that we envisioned, it will be an essential part of America’s future successes.

Warm regards – and I look forward to seeing you again sometime, someplace.

Roger N. Beachy
National Institute of Food and Agriculture


NIFA Partnership Awards

NIFA recognizes there are many outstanding contributions that our partners in the land-grant universities and other cooperating institutions and organizations have achieved. To recognize these achievements, the Partnership Awards Program was established in 2007.

NIFA invites all land-grant universities and cooperating institutions and organizations supported by NIFA to submit nominations for the 2011 NIFA Partnership Awards Program. This program recognizes outstanding contributions, aligned with NIFA strategic goals, in support of the USDA mission. Awards for this year will recognize excellence in:

  • mission integration of research, education, and extension;
  • multistate efforts;
  • innovative program models; and
  • effective and efficient use of resources.

Nominations may be submitted for individuals or teams of up to 35 members. Each institution may submit up to two nominations (combined total across all categories), meaning the entire institution, including research, education, and extension functions. Nominations must be submitted via the NIFA Partnership Awards Nomination Form, and all signed forms must be submitted by July 15, 2011, via email using scanned files that have been saved as .pdf or .jpg files to Chevon Gibson, ARS Human Resources Division at Chevon.Gibson@ars.usda.gov according to instructions in the attached guidelines/criteria.

Winning nominations will be recognized at the NIFA Day of Appreciation, tentatively scheduled for early October. NIFA will pay travel expenses for one person from each winning nomination, whether it is an individual or team award. Nominations should include only individuals or teams who have performed truly distinguished service. We ask that deans, directors, and administrators thoroughly review each submission for validity of accomplishments before signing his or her approval on the nomination form.

USDA Awards Grant to Pennsylvania State University to Support Honey Bee Health Research

WASHINGTON, May 17 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced a grant to The Pennsylvania State University (PSU) and several collaborators to develop a nationwide network to monitor and maintain honey bee health.
The overall goal of the $5 million, 5-year project is to focus on extension efforts while expanding upon previous USDA-funded research. The scientists will use an epidemiological approach to determine which management practices most successfully reduce honey bee mortality and increase profitability for bee keepers. Project leader Dennis vanEngelsdorp from PSU and his multistate team hope that widespread adoption of best management practices can reduce national losses in honey bee populations by 50 percent over the next 5 years.

In addition to PSU, the project includes extension educators and specialists from the University of California, the University of Illinois, the University of Georgia, the University of Tennessee, the University of Minnesota, North Carolina State University, Appalachian State University, Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, the Florida Department of Agriculture,  National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The grant was awarded through USDA’s highly competitive Agriculture and Food Research Initiative and administered through NIFA. Visit the NIFA Newsroom to read USDA Awards Grant to  Pennsylvania State University to Support Honey Bee Health Research.

USDA, DOE Award Biomass Research and Development Grants

WASHINGTON – As part of the Obama Administration’s comprehensive plan to address rising gas prices, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced a total of $42 million to fund eight research and development projects that will support the production of biofuels, bioenergy, and high-value biobased products from a variety of biomass sources. These investments in clean, sustainable transportation fuels will help reduce U.S. oil imports, support economic development in rural America, create clean energy jobs for U.S. workers, and protect American families and businesses from future spikes in gas prices. The advanced biofuels produced through these projects are also expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent compared to fossil fuels. 

The projects are funded through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative and will help increase the availability of alternative renewable fuels and biobased products to diversify the nation’s energy resources. Funding is provided through NIFA and DOE’s Biomass Program.  Each award was made through a competitive selection process. Visit the NIFA Newsroom to read USDA/DOE Award Biomass Research and Development Grants.

USDA Awards Grants to Improve Sustainable Food Systems and Reduce Hunger

WASHINGTON, May 5 – As part of an effort to reduce hunger and food insecurity, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced USDA grants to improve sustainable regional and local food systems. The grants were awarded by NIFA through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). Many regional and local sustainable food system programs across the country address food insecurity by developing small food economies in diverse ways. Projects funded through this program explore ways to improve food systems on a local level by helping disadvantaged communities in urban and rural areas establish sustainable food systems (food sheds). AFRI is NIFA’s flagship competitive grant program and was established under the 2008 Farm Bill. Visit the NIFA Newsroom to read USDA Awards Grants to Improve Sustainable Food Systems and Reduce Hunger.

NIFA in the News


NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications

Funding Opportunity Closing Date Contact

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Foundational Program

See individual grant program.

See individual grant program.

Biomass Research and Development Initiative

May 31, 2011

Carmela Bailey

Supplemental and Alternative Crops Competitive Grants Program

May 31, 2011

James Parochetti

Food and Agricultural Sciences National Needs Graduate and Postgraduate Fellowship Grants Program

June 1, 2011

Irma Lawrence

Renewable Resources Extension Act-National Focus Fund Projects

June 6, 2011

Eric Norland

Rural Youth Development Grants Program

June 10, 2011

Nancy Valentine

New Technologies for Ag Extension, Smith-Lever 3B, 3C, and 3D Programs

June 17, 2011

Gregory Crosby

Integrated Research, Education, and Extension Competitive Grants Program: Methyl Bromide Transitions Program

June 22, 2011

Kitty Cardwell

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

June 27, 2011

Jan Singleton

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education

July 14, 2011

Rob Hedberg

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.

Independent Firm’s Civil Rights Assessment of Program Delivery at USDA Makes Recommendations for Improvement, Notes Successes

WASHINGTON, May 11 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack released an independently produced report that provides a Civil Rights Assessment of USDA’s field-based program delivery and makes recommendations intended to ensure that all Americans have fair and equal access to USDA programs.

The Civil Rights Assessment report released was promised in Secretary Vilsack’s April 2009 memorandum to employees that detailed an aggressive plan to promote equal access and opportunity at the department. The report makes department-wide recommendations that will help USDA improve service delivery to minority and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and also suggests agency-specific changes to enhance program delivery and outreach to promote diversity, inclusion, and accessibility.

A significant number of the recommendations included in the report already have been or currently are being integrated into USDA operations. An internal working group chaired by Secretary Vilsack has been established to implement many of the recommendations within the framework of cultural transformation. While many recommendations can be implemented administratively, some of the recommendations will require policy or statutory changes, and others will need to be considered as part of the 2012 Farm Bill deliberations. An overview of Vilsack’s comprehensive efforts is available. A summary of the report is also available, and the full report can be read here. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release Independent Firm’s Civil Rights Assessment of Program Delivery at USDA Makes Recommendations for Improvement, Notes Successes.

USDA Announces Project to Encourage Development of Next-Generation Biofuels

WASHINGTON, May 5 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the establishment of the first Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) Project Area to promote the production of dedicated feedstocks for bioenergy. This project will help spur the development of next-generation biofuels and is part of Obama administration efforts to protect Americans from rising gas prices by breaking the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

“Reducing our dependence on foreign oil and getting a handle on out of control gas prices will require investments in projects like these,” said Vilsack. “By encouraging production of feedstocks that can be converted into next-generation biofuels we are boosting the rural economy, creating jobs, contributing to America’s energy security, and protecting our planet. Investments like this spark creation of new industries and are a key part of our effort to keep America competitive and win the future.”

Comprising 39 contiguous counties in Missouri and Kansas, the first BCAP Project Area proposes the enrollment of up to 50,000 acres for establishing a dedicated energy crop of native grasses and herbaceous plants (forbs) for energy purposes. Producers in the area will plant mixes of perennial native plants, such as switchgrass, for the manufacture of biomass pellet fuels and other biomass products to be used for power and heat generation. The proposed crops also will provide long term resource conserving vegetative cover. The project is a joint effort between the agriculture producers of Show Me Energy Cooperative of Centerview, MO, and USDA to spur the expansion of domestically produced biomass feedstocks in rural America for renewable energy. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release USDA Announces Project to Encourage Development of Next-Generation Biofuels.

USDA Introduces Mobile Ask Karen, Food Safety on Your Smartphone

WASHINGTON, May 5 – Just in time for summer grilling and picnic season, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is launching Mobile Ask Karen, a web-based smartphone application, or app, that instantly answers food safety questions. The app is a mobile version of the existing Ask Karen site, a virtual food safety representative who offers advice about properly handling, storing, and preparing food to prevent illness.

“FSIS has a wealth of tips and useful information to help as you shop, prepare, and store food,” said Under Secretary for Food Safety, Elisabeth Hagen. “People are using mobile devices more and more to get quick information, so we have adapted our tools, allowing more people to get food safety messages faster. Now, people can ‘Ask Karen’ right away when they need food safety information, without being tethered to a computer.” In mobile format, people can take “Karen” with them to the grocery store, barbecue grill, farmers market, and into the kitchen. Anywhere mobile devices can access the Internet, at any time of day; consumers can get immediate answers to questions such as, “Is food safe if left out overnight?” or, “Should I use a wooden cutting board or a plastic one?” Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release USDA Introduces Mobile Ask Karen, Food Safety on Your Smartphone.

USDA’s Economic Research Service Marks 50th Anniversary

WASHINGTON, May 5 – USDA’s preeminent economic research agency—the Economic Research Service (ERS)—is observing its 50th anniversary. ERS marks the occasion with a symposium at USDA’s Washington headquarters focusing on both ERS’s past and ongoing contributions to public policy and the social sciences, with speakers drawn from inside and outside USDA. “We all take pride in the historic contributions ERS has made to inform program and policy decisions with sound, credible, objective research findings, data, and information,” said Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release USDA’s Economic Research Service Marks 50th Anniversary.

USDA Awards Additional MAP Funds to USMEF 

WASHINGTON, May 4 – USDA awarded an additional $1 million of FY2011 Market Access Program funds to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), and welcomes USMEF’s decision to use these funds to augment their ongoing beef promotion in South Korea. USDA also welcomes the announcement by USMEF of a 5-year, $10 million initiative to regain and expand U.S. beef markets in Korea. USMEF’s initiative will include the promotion of science-based decision making, the adoption of international standards to facilitate trade, and efforts to inform consumers of the safety and quality of U.S. beef. USDA remains committed to ensuring that U.S. meat and meat products are treated fairly in the global marketplace and looks forward to working with industry partners to address trade barriers and increase market share in this critical market. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release USDA Awards Additional MAP Funds to USMEF.


Social Media Tools Used to Tell Cooperative Extension Story

The Extension Committee on Organization and Policy, the representative leadership and governing body of Cooperative Extension, is encouraging professionals, stakeholders, and learners to tell the Cooperative Extension’s value stories using social media tools. “Like” the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CooperativeExtension and post impacts, follow the Twitter account @CESValue and use the Twitter hashtag #CESValue when telling stories about Extension’s value. The #CESValue lets anyone search, aggregate, and feed stories.

The Facebook page has almost 4,000 “likes” and has had 536,099 post views. Between February 22 and April 3, the term CESValue on Twitter was used 1,999 times by 688 contributors and reached 264,772 Twitter accounts. Please continue to encourage staff and others to tell their successful Extension stories using these outlets.


Land-Grant Partners Host Conference on Value-Added Agriculture

On June 26-28, The Pennsylvania State University, The Ohio State University, and the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development will host the 13th Annual National Value-Added Agriculture Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. The conference theme is the economic impact of value-added agriculture. Sessions will focus on issues related to direct marketing, value-added processing, and supply and distribution. Registration and lodging information can be found on the conference web site.

National Dietary Intake Objectives Group Honored

Two national program leaders in NIFA’s Division of Nutrition (Etta Saltos in human nutrition and food safety arenas, and Susan Welsh, in nutrition education research), along with other members of the National Dietary Intake Objectives Group will be recognized at the 51st Annual Food and Drug Administration’s Honor Awards Ceremony on May 23. They are receiving an award “for exemplary interagency collaboration in establishing national science-based dietary intake objectives and 10-year targets to improve Americans’ health through the Healthy People 2020 initiative.” This award recognizes the significant accomplishments achieved through interagency efforts in 2009 and 2010 in establishing national dietary intake objectives and 2020 targets.


For a plain text copy of this newsletter, please contact Judy Rude. NIFA UPDATE is published biweekly. The next NIFA issue is planned for June 1. Submit news items to: newsletter@nifa.usda.gov by May 25 to 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

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 SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call 800-795-3272 (voice) or 202-720-6382 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.