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You are here:Home / Newsroom / Newsletters / NIFA Updates / NIFA Update – December 21, 2012

NIFA Update — December 21, 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.


  • Director’s Message
  • USDA Grants Support Sustainable Bioenergy Production
  • USDA Loan Repayment Awards Help Deliver Veterinarian Services to Underserved Rural Communities
  • USDA/USAID Collaborate to Improve the Common Bean to Strengthen Global Food Security
  • NIFA in the News
  • NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications



  • MyPlate at Home Now Available in Traditional Chinese and French
  • American Farmers and Ranchers Reach 50M-Acre Mark in Voluntary USDA Conservation Program
  • USDA Action during Drought Opened 2.8 Million Acres to Haying and Grazing, Brought Nearly $200 Million in Forage for Producers
  • Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, and Interior Sign Memorandum to Collaborate to Protect Indian Sacred Sites



  • Alcorn State University Names New Chair of AREAS
  • Two New Publications Funded Through NIFA Grants
  • Western Region SARE Conference


Awards and Recognition

  • Wounded Warrior Program Receives Superior Service Award


  • Next issue of NIFA Update is January 16, 2013

Director’s Message

The last 7 months since being sworn in as the Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture have been revealing, educational, busy, and eventful. Most significantly, we have made a number of decisions as a result of the budget situation and information garnered from our formal listening sessions and at informal listening sessions during my travels. 

I have had the privilege of engaging in conversations and other interactions with a wide variety of colleagues inside and outside of the Washington Beltway. This includes various agency heads, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, stakeholder groups, Land-Grant University faculty, students, and staff. I have had the opportunity to talk with researchers and Extension educators at professional society meetings and the opportunity for discussions as I traveled to deliver keynote lectures in celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the creation of the U. S. Department of Agriculture and passage of the Morrill Act. These interactions have given me a sense of the proverbial water cooler conversations and concerns, which has been useful in some of the decisions and changes we have incorporated.

I received a number of questions regarding the expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill and the current Continuing Resolution. My answer to them is that despite current legislative uncertainties, science and education has been and will remain the focus of our agency. Societal challenges continue to frame our vision for investing resources in the form of Challenge, Foundational, and Fellowship grants, scaled to the budget constraints and input from our partners and stakeholders. We are making mid-course adjustments that will allow us to manage our resources and yet make the kinds of investments necessary to enable discoveries needed to obtain solutions for societal challenges in the food, agricultural, natural resource, and human sciences. Some of our significant investments are highlighted in NIFA’s 2012 Highlights.

Two significant events that occurred recently, one of which I was privileged to participate in, was the release of two reports by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST): Transformation and Opportunity: The Future of the U.S. Research Enterprise; and Agricultural Preparedness and The Agriculture Research Enterprise. The two reports are highly relevant to our agency and to the research, education, and Extension enterprise we support in the food, agricultural, natural resource, and human sciences.

The first report calls for a rethinking of how our nation’s research enterprise is organized and funded, and recommends that the United States must invest at least three percent of the Gross Domestic Product to maintain our nation’s global preeminence. Note that the current combined public and private investments for agricultural research are well under two percent.

The second report, specifically addressing the agricultural research enterprise, speaks to the significant biotic, abiotic, and socio-economic and cultural challenges our nation faces in being able to sustainably meet our nation’s and global future food, fuel, fiber, and shelter needs. The report recommends to the President that we must create an “innovation ecosystem” for agricultural research and significantly increase investments. The report calls for an increase of $700 million for the agricultural research enterprise, including for research support, training and workforce development, and research infrastructure.

It will take a sustained effort by everyone concerned to bring to fruition the urgency and vision articulated by PCAST.

NIFA has a critical role to carry out many of the recommendations in the two PCAST reports as we try to meet our nation’s future food, fiber, fuel, shelter, and nutrition and health needs, and to ensure America’s global preeminence in the agricultural research and education enterprise.

I must say that I have learned a good bit during the last many months and we are making the necessary adjustments in line with what we have heard and learned from our partners and stakeholders. I am excited to be part of this incredible enterprise and I am optimistic of what the future portends.

I look forward to working with all of you, and wish you safe and happy holidays with family and friends.


Sonny Ramaswamy
NIFA Director


USDA Grants Support Sustainable Bioenergy Production

LANSING, MI, Dec. 14 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $10 million in research grants to spur production of bioenergy and biobased products that will lead to the development of sustainable regional systems and help create jobs. Vilsack highlighted the announcement with a visit to Michigan State University, a grant awardee. The secretary also pointed to a recent study, released by Iowa State University and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which finds that while the use of biobased products in automobile manufacturing is increasing, there are still many parts in the top-selling automobiles manufactured in the United States that may be replaced with biobased materials.
NIFA awarded the grants through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program. AFRI’s sustainable bioenergy challenge area targets the development of regional systems for the sustainable production of bioenergy and biobased products that: contribute significantly to reducing dependence on foreign oil; have net positive social, environmental, and rural economic impacts; and are compatible with existing agricultural systems. Visit the NIFA Newsroom to read the full release.

USDA Loan Repayment Awards Help Deliver Veterinarian Services to Underserved Rural Communities

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced more than 40 awards to help veterinarians repay a portion of their veterinary school loans in return for serving areas of the United States lacking sufficient veterinary resources. The awards, totaling more than $4.6 million, were made by NIFA through the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program and will benefit 30 states.

Veterinarians are critical to America’s food safety and food security, and to the health and well-being of both animals and humans. Major studies indicate significant and growing shortages of food supply veterinarians and veterinarians serving in certain other high-priority specialty areas. A leading cause for this shortage is the heavy cost of 4 years of professional veterinary medical training, which can average more than $150,000, according to the latest American Veterinary Medical Association survey of graduating veterinary students. Visit the NIFA Newsroom to read the full release.

USDA/USAID Collaborate to Improve the Common Bean to Strengthen Global Food Security

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded five grants totaling $4.5 million in support of research to improve the production of the common bean, a main staple produced throughout food insecure areas of the world, including East and Southern Africa. The awards were made by NIFA in coordination with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID provided the funds for the grants.

The funded projects will work to address challenges to common bean production faced by smallholder producers. The program is part of the government-wide Feed the Future Initiative, President Obama’s whole-of-government global hunger and food security initiative. The partnership is also part of the USAID-USDA Norman Borlaug Commemorative Research Initiative, which addresses food security needs by linking U.S. research and scientific innovations to effective adaptations in the fields across developing countries. Visit the NIFA Newsroom to read the full release.

NIFA in the News


NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications

Funding Opportunity

Closing Date


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


Jodi Williams

Higher Education Challenge Grants Program

February 8, 2013

Gregory Smith

Hispanic-Serving Institutions Education Grants Program

February 11, 2013

Irma Lawrence

AFRI-Foundational Program: Agriculture Systems and Technology

February 13, 2013

Daniel Schmoldt

Tribal Colleges Research Grants Program (TCRGP)

February 14, 2013

Tim Grosser

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

Plant Feedstock Genomics for Bioenergy: A Joint Research Solicitation – USDA, DOE

February 25, 2013

Ed Kaleikau

Alaska Native-Serving and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions Education Competitive Grants Program (ANNH)

March 1, 2012

Saleia Afele-Faamuli

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative: NIFA Fellowships Grant Program

March 7, 2012

Ray A. Ali

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.

MyPlate at Home Now Available in Traditional Chinese and French

Team Nutrition announced that MyPlate at Home, a parent handout from the Serving Up MyPlate Curriculum, is now available in traditional Chinese and in French to download from the Team Nutrition website. Print copies are in process and expected to be available in 2013. Visit the Team Nutrition website to learn more.

American Farmers and Ranchers Reach 50M-Acre Mark in Voluntary USDA Conservation Program

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 - In just 4 years, America's top conservationists have enrolled 50 million acres in USDA's Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), a program that helps farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners take conservation to the next level. CSP is aimed at producers who are already established conservation stewards, helping them to deliver multiple conservation benefits on working lands, including improved water and soil quality and enhanced wildlife habitat. The land enrolled in CSP totals more than 78,000 square miles, an area larger than Pennsylvania and South Carolina combined, making the program one of the largest voluntary conservation programs for private lands offered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. Nearly 12.2 million acres, or 18,750 square miles, were added to the program's rolls this year. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.

USDA Action during Drought Opened 2.8 Million Acres to Haying and Grazing, Brought Nearly $200 Million in Forage for Producers

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) measures to open conservation land to emergency haying and grazing during the 2012 drought freed up a record 2.8 million acres and provided as much as $200 million in forage for producers facing critical feed shortages. Vilsack made the announcement during the national drought forum in Washington, DC, co-sponsored by numerous federal agencies, governors' associations, and academic partners.

At the height of the 2012 drought, the Secretary announced expanded use of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres for haying and grazing including a 2-month extension for emergency grazing on CRP acres without incurring an additional CRP rental payment reduction. By providing this flexibility, USDA freed up forage and feed to benefit all livestock producers during a critical period, on top of additional USDA actions, including lowering the interest rate for emergency loans and working with crop insurance companies to provide flexibility to farmers. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.

Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, and Interior Sign Memorandum to Collaborate to Protect Indian Sacred Sites

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 – Four cabinet-level departments joined the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to improve the protection of Indian sacred sites. The MOU also calls for improving tribal access to the sites. It was signed by cabinet secretaries from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, and Interior. It was also signed by the chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

The MOU is in effect for 5 years and requires participating agencies to determine inter-agency measures to protect sacred sites. It also sets up a framework for consultation with tribes, creation of a training program for federal employees to provide educational opportunities concerning legal protections and limitations related to protection of the sites, creation of a website that includes links to federal agency responsibilities regarding sacred sites and the establishment of management practices that could include collaborative stewardship of those sites. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.

Alcorn State University Names Chair of AREAS

Dr. Daniel James Collins was named the new chair of the Department of Agriculture, School of Agriculture, Research, Extension, and Applied Sciences (AREAS), at Alcorn State University, Lorman Campus. Prior to his appointment, Collins was professor of Plant Pathology in the Urban Forestry Program, College of Agriculture Family and Consumer Sciences, at Southern University and A&M College. He earned his B.S. in biology in 1981 from Jackson State University and his M.S. in soil and plant science (plant pathology emphasis) in 1983 from Alabama A&M University. He later received his Ph.D. in plant pathology from the University of Missouri-Columbia, in 1988.

Two New Publications Funded Through NIFA Grants

  • Disaster Resilience

    Drs. Naim Kapucu, Christopher V. Hawkins, and Fernando I. Rivera, University of Central Florida, recently published the book Disaster Resilience – An Interdisciplinary Perspective, which presents conference papers by top scholars on disaster resilience. The conference, held at Florida International University in 2011, was funded by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative and included several NIFA-funded project presentations. Employing a variety of statistical techniques and applying them to disasters in the United States and worldwide, the authors examine resiliency through comparative methods that examine public management and policy; community planning and development; and, on the individual level, the ways in which culture, socio-economic status, and social networks contribute to resiliency. The analyses will lead to the development of strategies for community preparation, response, and recovery to natural disasters. Contact Siva Sureshwaran for more information and details.

  • Farmers’ Guide to Organic Contracts

    Farmers’ Guide to Organic Contracts is a comprehensive resource for farmers marketing organic crops, livestock, dairy, and other organic farm products. It was funded through a grant from NIFA’s Organic Agricultural Research and Extension Initiative program. The new guide can help organic farmers evaluate, negotiate, and manage contract agreements with buyers of organic farm products. This farmer-friendly guide includes contract laws important to farmers; an organic contract checklist and practical toolkit for farmers to review and negotiate contract offers; highlighted sections of how federal organic regulations interact with organic contracts; examples of over 100 types of organic contract provisions; and detailed information about solving the types of common organic contract disputes. The publication may be reprinted for educational purposes only so long as Farmers’ Legal Action Group, Inc. (FLAG) is credited when reprinting.


Western Region SARE Conference

The Western Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program held the Strengthening Agriculture’s Infrastructure: Adding Value, Breaking Down Barriers, Increasing Income, conference in Portland, OR, December 3-5. The conference featured 48 speakers and panelists, many of them farmers or ranchers, and attracted 210 attendees from around the Western Region and beyond. The need for this educational and partnership-building conference was identified through a series of seven stakeholder listening sessions held by the Western Region SARE. The lack of adequate infrastructure was repeatedly identified as a significant barrier to the growth of sustainable agriculture systems in the region. Keynote and featured speakers included Dr. Ann Bartuska, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics; Fred Kirschenmann, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Ken Meter, Crossroads Resource Center; Karl Kupers, Shepherd’s Grain; and Theresa Marquez of  Organic Valley. All presentations, along with video and audio, will be posted on the Western SARE website.


Wounded Warrior Program Receives Superior Service Award

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Wounded Warrior program received the Superior Service Award for the significant contribution in educational and research programming displayed by its team members. The program is supported by a NIFA grant with funding supplied by the U.S. Army. The Wounded Warrior program team includes Program Director Donna Martin, Program Coordinator Vernon Davis, Extension Associate Rachel Brauner, and Program Assistant Lynn Piippo, from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service; and Dr. Rhonda Montgomery and Dr. Mary Brintnall-Peterson, Tailored Caregiver Assessment and Referral, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The annual award is the highest honor given by the Extension agency and recognizes Extension and nonExtension personnel, each of whom made an impact and major joint effort in enhanced educational development for its clients.  The program provides educational materials and support services for caregivers of wounded, ill, and injured service members. These materials encompass such items as online learning lessons, resources, factsheets addressing specific medical conditions, and tips and strategies to enhance caregiver skills and quality of life.


The next NIFA issue is planned for January 16, 2013. Submit news items to: by January 9. 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: 12/21/2012