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You are here:Home / Newsroom / Newsletters / NIFA Updates / NIFA Update – November 20, 2012

NIFA Update — November 20, 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.


  • APLU/NIFA Awards and 2012 Knapp Lectureship
  • USDA Awards 17 Research Grants to Improve Food Safety
  • USDA-Funded Research Leads to Key Discoveries in the Pig Genome
  • NIFA in the News
  • NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications



  • USDA Awards First Grants to Increase Local Foods in Eligible Schools
  • USDA Delivers Funding for Hurricane Sandy Recovery Projects in 11 States
  • USDA Helps Restore Water and Electric Service to Rural Customers Hit by Hurricane Sandy



  • Prairie View A&M University Names Johnson Dean/Director
  • EDEN Extends Membership to Bicol University


Awards and Recognition

  • Le Menestrel Receives American Evaluation Association Award
  • Extension Specialists Receive Housing Impact Award

  • Next issue of NIFA Update is December 5

APLU/NIFA Awards and 2012 Knapp Lectureship

For 20 years, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and NIFA have worked together to recognize the extraordinary efforts of a select group of educators, researchers, and Extension specialists. The Excellence in College and University Teaching awards recognize university faculty members for sparking interest in students and producing future graduates. Those honored for their commitment to programs in lifelong learning and important contributions to the improvement of communities are awarded the Excellence in Extension award. The National Extension Diversity Award acknowledges outstanding efforts and accomplishments within Cooperative Extension to achieve and sustain diverse cultures and abilities. Multistate Research Award recipients are recognized for the collaborative efforts of several state Agricultural Experiment Stations working together to address a critical, regional problem. With these awards, NIFA and APLU not only honor recipients who have given of themselves and made outstanding contributions to the improvement of our communities, they also recognize the foresight of establishing an educational, Extension, and research system that encourages the best of all its participants and partners. Read the 2012 Food and Agricultural Sciences Excellence in College and University Awards Program for more information on the 2012 Award Recipients.

The 2012 Seaman A. Knapp lecturer was Dr. Waded Cruzado, president of Montana State University. In her presentation, “Who needs Extension, anyway?” The Relevance and Values for our next 100 Years of Engagement," she laid out the challenges Extension programs face in the 21st century, and reminded everyone that Extension will need to adopt different cultural demographics, different agricultural structures, and technologies for the future compared to the 1914 Cooperative Extension System. The Lectureship honors Seaman A. Knapp who is known as the “father” of the Extension System, the schoolmaster of American agriculture, and one of the greatest agricultural leaders. He is credited with developing farm demonstration work—taking university knowledge directly to the farmers and fields. These awards are presented annually at the APLU Fall Meeting.

USDA Awards 17 Research Grants to Improve Food Safety

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13 – NIFA announced 17 research projects totaling nearly $15 million that aim to improve food safety by helping control microbial and chemical contamination in various foods.

“USDA is committed to supporting agricultural research that improves food safety,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “In addition to producing new knowledge about food-borne pathogens, these grants include Extension and education programs to inform food service workers and consumers about proper food handling procedures.”

NIFA made the awards through the 2011 Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Food Safety program. The program’s goal is to protect consumers from microbial and chemical contaminants that may occur during all stages of the food chain, from production to consumption. This year, AFRI’s Food Safety program focused on control and prevention of Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry flocks and poultry products, including eggs. In addition, the program addressed critical and emerging food safety hazards to help prevent contamination and outbreaks. Visit the NIFA Newsroom to read the full release.

USDA-Funded Research Leads to Key Discoveries in the Pig Genome

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 – Research conducted and supported by USDA has led to a new analysis of the pig genome, revealing new similarities between pigs and humans that could potentially advance biomedical research. Additional findings from the study, reported in the journal Nature, may also lead to better breeding strategies, improved pork production, and improvements to human health. The research was conducted by a global team of scientists as part of the International Swine Genome Sequence Consortium.

“This new swine genome sequence analysis helps us understand the genetic mechanisms that enable high-quality pork production, feed efficiency, and resistance to disease,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “This knowledge can ultimately help producers breed high-quality swine, lower production costs, and improve sustainability. 

The study found that the pig and its cousin the wild boar have much in common with humans. Researchers compared the genome of a common farm pig with those of 10 wild boars – all from different parts of Europe and Asia. The team found many significant genetic differences between the Asian and European wild boars, which separated from one another around one million years ago. Understanding the genetic origins of modern pigs is important in breeding efforts for disease resistance and growth efficiency. Visit the NIFA Newsroom to learn more about the new discoveries.

NIFA in the News


NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications

Funding Opportunity

Closing Date


Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Food Safety

December 5, 2012

Jeanette Thurston

Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases

December 5, 2012

Peter Johnson

National Robotics Initiative: The Realization of Co-Robots Acting in Direct Support of Individuals and Groups

December 11, 2012

Daniel Schmoldt

AFRI-Foundational Program: Animal Health and Production and Animal Products

January 9, 2013

Mark A. Mirando

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

January 18, 2013

Gregory Smith

AFRI-Foundational Program: Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health

February 6, 2013

D. Ramkishan Rao

Higher Education Challenge Grants Program

February 8, 2013

Gregory Smith

AFRI-Foundational Program: Agriculture Systems and Technology

February 13, 2013

Daniel Schmoldt

Hispanic-Serving Institutions Education Grants Program

February 11, 2013

Irma Lawrence

AFRI-Foundational Program: Plant Health and Production and Plant Products

February 18, 2013

Ann Lichens-Park

AFRI-Foundational Program: Renewable Energy, Natural Resources, and Environment

February 21, 2013

Nancy Cavallaro

AFRI-Climate Variability and Change

April 15, 2013

Michael A. Bowers

AFRI-Foundational Program: Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities

May 22, 2013

Robbin Shoemaker


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 Awards First Grants to Increase Local Foods in Eligible Schools

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 – Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced more than $4.5 million in grants for 68 projects, spanning 37 states and the District of Columbia, to connect school cafeterias with local agricultural producers.

The first-ever USDA Farm-to-School grants will help schools respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods and increase market opportunities for producers and food businesses, including food processors, manufacturers, distributors. Grants will also support agriculture and nutrition education efforts, such as school gardens, field trips to local farms, and cooking classes. The grants will serve more than 3,200 schools and 1.75 million students, nearly half of whom live in rural communities. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.

USDA Delivers Funding for Hurricane Sandy Recovery Projects in 11 States

WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 – As part of federal efforts to provide necessary support to those affected by Hurricane Sandy, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has provided $5.3 million in Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program funds to 11 states affected by the storm. EWP—an emergency recovery program—responds to emergencies created by natural disasters by helping people relieve imminent hazards to life and property.

Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia each received $480,000 for recovery projects to address public safety and restoration efforts on private, public, and tribal lands. With these new EWP funds on hand, NRCS state offices will be able to move swiftly as sponsors come forward for projects to reduce threats to life or property. All projects undertaken, with the exception of the purchase of floodplain easements, must have a project sponsor. When funding is allocated to a project, NRCS contracts the heavy construction work to local contractors, spurring creation of jobs. Typical projects funded under EWP include removing debris from waterways, protecting eroded stream banks, reseeding damaged areas, and, in some cases, purchasing floodplain easements on eligible land. NRCS funds up to 75 percent of project costs, with local sponsors paying the remaining 25 percent in either cash or in-kind services. Funding is subject to Congressional approval. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.

USDA Helps Restore Water and Electric Service to Rural Customers Hit by Hurricane Sandy

WASHINGTON, Nov. 6 – As part of federal efforts to provide necessary support to those affected by Hurricane Sandy, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that power and water services have been restored to more than 130,000 rural customers on USDA-financed systems in nine states.

Twelve USDA-funded rural electric systems in nine states reported that power was restored to all but 38 customers. At the height of the storm, 130,720 customers in Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia had lost power. Nearly all of the USDA funded rural water systems in Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania that reported problems are back online, and USDA field staff and utility workers are continuing to conduct additional assessments. These water systems serve 91,553 rural residents. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.


Prairie View A&M University Names Johnson Dean/Director

Dr. Alton B. Johnson was named dean of the College of Agriculture and Human Sciences, director of the Cooperative Agricultural Research Center, and administrator of the Cooperative Extension Program at Prairie View A&M University, effective November 2. Johnson served as associate dean, associate research director, and Extension administrator since October 1, 2011.

Johnson, a native of Monrovia, Liberia, has a wealth of experience in management, administration, and academia. Prior to coming to Prairie View A&M University he was interim assistant dean of research in the School of Agriculture, Research, Extension, and Applied Sciences at Alcorn State University. He served as interim research director, chief research officer, and associate professor of agriculture during his 16 year career at Alcorn. He earned a B.S. in general agriculture from the University of Liberia in Monrovia and his M.S. in agronomy, with a concentration in soil and water management and conservation from Mississippi State University. His Ph.D. is in agronomy, with a concentration in soil physics from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

EDEN Extends Membership to Bicol University

The Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) voted at the annual EDEN meeting to extend a 3-year full membership to Bicol University Extension in the Philippines. Bicol University is a public institution in Legazpi City and includes disaster education in its Extension programming. Bicol University President Fay Lauraya indicated that Bicol Extension is looking forward to contributing to the network.

Historically, EDEN membership is available to institutions in the United States and its territories. They provide outreach through Extension offering nonformal education, at the local level, to help people reduce the impact of disasters. Bicol University Extension is similar to Extension in the United States. EDEN Past chair Virginia Morgan White, while working on a NIFA’s Division of Family and Consumer Sciences Visiting Scholar Program, focused on the possibility of opening EDEN to international membership and called on the international expertise of NIFA administrators. This pilot membership for Bicol will greatly increase EDEN’s ability to reduce disaster impacts by incorporating research and real-world experiences from other countries and to extend educational curriculum.

Le Menestrel Receives American Evaluation Association Award

Dr. Suzanne Le Menestrel, Youth Development Research national program leader in the Division of Youth and 4-H, received the Outstanding Leadership and Service to the Extension Evaluation Profession Award. The award is given by the Extension Education Evaluation Topical Interest Group and presented at the 2012 American Evaluation Association conference in Minneapolis. The annual award recognizes leadership and service in creating networks and gaining visibility for Extension evaluators.

Extension Specialists Receive Housing Impact Award

Two outstanding leaders received the Housing Impact Award at the 2012 Housing Education and Research Association annual meeting. The award is presented to persons who have extensive impact in Extension educational programming, constituent services, and visionary leadership. They exemplify leadership in translating research into practice and changing lives through education. 

William (Bill) Angell, professor and Extension specialist at the University of Minnesota, was honored for his work in indoor air quality, particularly for his contributions to the reduction of radon gas and the risk it poses to human health. Angell has headed the Midwest Universities Radon Consortium since 1989 and has offered over 800 courses in over 20 states and 9 Tribal Nations to educate health officials and contractors to measure and mitigate radon gas in homes, schools, and other buildings. He also gave leadership to the formation of Cancer Survivors Against Radon (CanSAR) and worked with its members to meet with U.S. senators and representatives to move federal radon policies and partnered with members to influence states to pass building code requirements for radon control in new homes. The impact of Angell’s work, calculated by a metric established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is estimated to have saved more than 2,500 lives through lowering radon concentrations in homes and, thus, preventing lung cancer.

Michael Vogel, professor and Extension Housing and Environmental Health specialist at Montana State University (MSU), was honored for establishing one of the original Department of Energy’s Regional Weatherization Training Centers. This is a groundbreaking and acclaimed educational initiative with a green building, WxTV, mobile lab, and technical training center. He also led the path in Native American housing education. He has the only national tribal specific Healthy Homes training that focuses on home environment, health, and safety. He provides MSU program leadership for the Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Program and training to Native American tribes in the United States. Vogel serves as national director of the National Tribal Healthy Homes Training Center, team leader for the national Home Energy eXtension efforts, and he is executive director of the Housing Education and Research Association

The next NIFA issue is planned for December 5. Submit news items to: by November 14. 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: 11/20/2012