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You are here:Home / Newsroom / Newsletters / NIFA Updates / NIFA Update – September 13, 2012

NIFA Update — September 13, 2012

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.


  • Nawaba is New Awards Management Division Director
  • New Staff Member Joins NIFA Division of Nutrition
  • NIFA Welcomes AAAS Fellow
  • NIFA NPL Participates in the Interagency Rotation Program
  • NIFA Scientist Travels to Nepal in Support of Feed the Future Initiative
  • NIFA in the News
  • NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications



  • USDA Organic Literacy Initiative
  • Secretary Vilsack Announces Grants to Improve Housing for Farm Workers
  • Livestock Producers Affected by Disasters Urged to Keep Good Records
  • Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Extends Emergency Grazing


  • Montana Announces Interim Director


Awards and Recognition

  • “Champions of Change” for Strengthening Food Security

  • Next issue of NIFA Update is September 26

Nawaba is New Awards Management Division Director

Edward Nwaba is the new director for the Office of Grants and Financial Management (OGFM) Awards Management Division. Nwaba was the branch chief of Oversight in OGFM. During the past 5 years, he provided oversight leadership at NIFA to ensure grantees’ compliance with applicable federal financial assistance laws and regulations.

Nwaba came to NIFA from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services where he spent 4 years as a senior accountant/cost negotiator. Prior to joining the federal government, he had more than 15 years of accounting and auditing experience in various state/local government and private sector positions. Nwaba holds a B.S. in accounting and economics from Towson State University, and an MBA in accounting and finance from the University of Maryland. He is an adjunct professor at Howard University and is also a Certified Public Accountant. He is located in room 2172 in the Waterfront Centre and can be reached at 202-205-5799.

New Staff Member Joins NIFA Division of Nutrition

Dr. Deirdra Chester has joined the Institute of Food Safety and Nutrition to oversee Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s Childhood Obesity Prevention and Function and Efficacy of Nutrients programs. She previously worked for the Agricultural Research Service as nutritionist, chief dietitian/human study coordinator, and the obesity research coordinator. She has also worked with a number of interagency projects and programs with the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   

Chester serves on the executive board and is past-chair of the Food and Nutrition Section of the American Public Health Association. She is also co-chair of the Research Committee of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Chester is a registered dietitian and holds a Ph.D. in dietetics and nutrition from Florida International University. She earned her M.S. in nutrition science and B.S. in nutrition and dietetics from Florida State University. She is located in room 2334 in the Waterfront Centre and can be reached at 202-401-5178.  

NIFA Welcomes AAAS Fellow

Dr. Rachel Melnick joins NIFA as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow, on a 1-year appointment that introduces scientists to public policy and decision making while they contribute their expertise and training to federal agencies or congressional offices. Melnick will work with the Plant Protection Division of the Institute of Food Production and Sustainability. She is NIFA’s second AAAS Fellow. 

Melnick has expertise in plant pathology, biological control, microbial ecology, integrated pest management, and international agriculture. Her graduate research was devoted to the study of biological control of diseases of cacao, the chocolate tree. She continued her study of the plant-microbe interaction between cacao and its associated microbes (beneficial and pathogenic) and biological control during a post-doctoral appointment at the Agricultural Research Service’s Sustainable Perennial Crops Lab in Beltsville, MD. She earned a B.S. in biology from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, and her M.S. and Ph.D. in plant pathology from The Pennsylvania State University. She is located in room 3321 Waterfront Centre and can be reached at 202-401-4961.

NIFA NPL Participates in the Interagency Rotation Program

Suresh Sureshwaran, national program leader in the Institute of Food Production and Sustainability, was selected to participate in the President's Management Council's Interagency Rotation Program from October 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013. The purpose of this program is to strengthen agency collaboration, share best practices across departments, and build a pipeline of emerging leaders who have a broad understanding of the varied missions across the federal government. Sureshwaran will serve in a senior program/management analyst role at the Department of Energy and contribute to the analysis, development, and assessment of high-priority human capital management initiatives, such as The GEAR Model (Goals, Engagement, Accountability and Results) and the President's Hiring Reform, etc. 

NIFA Scientist Travels to Nepal in Support of Feed the Future Initiative

Dr. Adele Turzillo, NIFA national program leader for Animal Production Systems, recently participated in a U.S. Department of Agriculture – U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) scoping mission to Nepal. The team assessed the livestock sector in Nepal, one of 20 countries the Feed the Future Initiative identified for strategic investment and development. Turzillo and the USAID team met with government officials and visited 15 cattle and water buffalo farms across the Terai region (the southernmost region of Nepal, located between the Himalayan foothills and the Indian border). They gathered information about livestock management practices, observed a genetic improvement project, and learned about opportunities for expanded dairy processing and marketing. The team’s upcoming report will summarize their observations and make recommendations for Feed the Future interventions that will improve livestock management, increase production efficiency, strengthen the dairy value chain, and contribute to better nutrition and greater food security in Nepal.

NIFA in the News

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Grants to Support Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

BOONE, Iowa, Aug. 30 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more than $18 million in grants to organizations across 24 states that will help beginning farmers and ranchers with the training and resources needed to run productive, sustainable farms. Under the Secretary's leadership since 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has driven a number of efforts meant to spur interest in agriculture and provide the necessary support to young, beginning and socially-disadvantaged producers. At the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Vilsack said investing in beginning farmers, ranchers and producers is not only a smart investment, but one that is vital to our nation's national and economic security.

USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded the grants through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) established through the 2008 Farm Bill. USDA makes BFRDP grants to organizations that implement education, training, technical assistance and outreach programs to help beginning farmers and ranchers, specifically those who have been farming or ranching for 10 years or fewer. At least 25 percent of the program's funding supports the needs of limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, as well as farm workers who want to get a start in farming and ranching. Visit the NIFA Newsroom to learn more about BRFDP and other tools and services available from USDA agencies. 

NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications

Funding Opportunity

Closing Date


Small Business Innovation Research: Biofuels and Biobased Products

September 13, 2012

William Goldner

Small Business Innovation Research: Forests and Related Resources

September 13, 2012

Charles F. Cleland

Small Business Innovation Research: Plant Production and Protection - Biology

September 13, 2012

Shing F. Kwok

Small Business Innovation Research Program: Engineering

September 13, 2012

William Goldner

Small Business Innovation Research: Food Science and Nutrition

September 13, 2012

Jodi Williams

Small Business Innovation Research: Rural Development

September 13, 2012

Siva Sureshwaran

Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR)

September 13, 2012

Charles F. Cleland

Small Business Innovation Research Program: Phase I

September 13, 2012

Charles F. Cleland

Small Business Innovation Research: Small and Mid-Size Farms

September 13, 2012

Charles F. Cleland

Small Business Innovation Research: Air, Water, and Soils

September 13, 2012

Mary Ann Rozum

Small Business Innovation Research: Animal Production and Protection

September 13, 2012

Adele Turzillo

Small Business Innovation Research: Aquaculture

September 13, 2012

Gary Jensen

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Dual Purpose with Dual Benefit: Research in Biomedicine and Agriculture Using Agriculturally Important Domestic Species

September 20, 2012

Mark A. Mirando

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Food Safety

December 5, 2012

Jeanette Thurston

Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases

December 5, 2012

Peter Johnson


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

USDA Organic Literacy Initiative

The USDA National Organic Program, in coordination with other USDA agencies, has launched the Organic Literacy Initiative. The initiative includes printed materials as well as online trainings that will be available to both USDA employees and the public. Visit the National Organic Program website for more information.

Secretary Vilsack Announces Grants to Improve Housing for Farm Workers

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is accepting applications for technical assistance grants to develop domestic and migrant farm labor housing. Grants are available to organizations that will help housing authorities, state, and local governments, Indian tribes, nonprofit organizations, and community- and faith-based groups apply for loans and grants to build farm worker housing. Vilsack announced on July 18 the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for loans and grants to build or preserve affordable rental farm worker housing. This technical assistance funding is for organizations that assist potential borrowers under NOFA.

For additional information, see page 54877 of the September 6 Federal Register. The deadline for submitting applications is November 5, 2012. Visit Rural Development's new interactive web map featuring program funding and success stories for fiscal years 2009-2011. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.

Livestock Producers Affected by Disasters Urged to Keep Good Records

WASHINGTON, Aug. 29 – USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Juan M. Garcia urged livestock producers affected by natural disasters such as Hurricane Isaac to keep thorough records of their livestock and feed losses, including additional expenses for such things as feed purchases because of lost supplies.

FSA recommends that owners and producers record all pertinent information of natural disaster consequences, including:

  • Documentation of the number and kind of livestock that have died, supplemented if possible by photographs or video records of ownership and losses;
  • Dates of death supported by birth recordings or purchase receipts;
  • Costs of transporting livestock to safer grounds or to move animals to new pastures; and
  • Feed purchases if supplies or grazing pastures are destroyed.

Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Extends Emergency Grazing

WASHINGTON, Aug. 29 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a 2-month extension for emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres, freeing up forage and feed for ranchers as they look to recover from this challenging time.

To assist producers, USDA is permitting farmers and ranchers in drought stricken states that have been approved for emergency grazing to extend grazing on CRP land through November 30, 2012, without incurring an additional CRP rental payment reduction. The period normally allowed for emergency grazing lasts through September 30. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.

Montana Announces Interim Director

Montana State University Extension announced that Dr. Jill Martz will serve as interim director while a national search is conducted to fill the position. Martz has served as the director of Montana 4-H since 2008. She holds a B.S. in education from Bowling Green State University, M.Ed. in vo-tech education from Middle Tennessee State University, and a Ph.D. in human ecology from the University of Tennessee. Her contact information is: MSU Extension, P.O. Box 172239, Bozeman, MT 59717-2239, Telephone: 406-994-1750, Fax: 406-994-1756.

“Champions of Change” for Strengthening Food Security

The White House honored 11 “Champions of Change” who have committed themselves to Strengthening Food Security in the United States and around the world. Using innovative approaches, these champions are striving to ensure that no man, woman, or child goes hungry and inspires others to do the same. This program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative. USDA’s Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan provided the opening keynote address.

Three land-grant partners were among the 11 people recognized as “Champions of Change:

  • Dr. June Henton, professor and dean of the College of Human Sciences at Auburn University, provided leadership for teaching, research, and outreach programming in subject areas that ranged from nutrition and food to consumer behavior and health. She led Auburn University in establishing its Hunger Solutions Institute to connect with ideas that work for ending hunger.
  • Terrol Johnson has created innovative responses to epidemic rates of nutrition-related disease in the Tohono O'odham Nation in Southern Arizona, for more than 15 years. As co-founder and president of Tohono O'odham Community Action, he led the efforts to build a tribal food system that provides healthy, culturally-appropriate foods in one of the poorest communities in the United States. Johnson’s work ranged from founding two farms that grow traditional crops and programs that introduce healthy tribal foods into school lunches to revitalizing the tribe’s cultural traditions that promote healthy living.
  • Dr. Govind Kannan, dean of the College of Agriculture, Family Sciences, and Technology at Fort Valley State University (FVSU) in Georgia, has spent his entire career in applied research and outreach to empower small and underrepresented farmers with the knowledge and technical skills they need to sustain successful agricultural enterprises. Kannan played a lead role in establishing a research consortium of 1890 land-grant institutions that integrated plant-animal farming systems to promote economic stability and environmental stewardship on limited resource farms. Under his leadership, the institution’s global outreach increased with growing numbers of FVSU scientists traveling to other countries to conduct training programs.

The next NIFA issue is planned for September 26. Submit news items to: by September 6. If you have questions about Update, please contact the Editor: Judy Rude, public affairs specialist, NIFA Communications Staff.

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.

Sonny Ramaswamy, 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.

Questions? Comments? Last Updated: 09/13/2012