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You are here:Home / Newsroom / Newsletters / NIFA Updates / NIFA Update – April 10, 2013

NIFA Update — April 10, 2013

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.


  • Richard O. Hegg
  • NIFA Names New Director of OIT Applications
  • USDA Announces Grants to Develop Childhood Obesity Prevention Programs
  • NIFA in the News
  • NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications



  • USDA and Federal Partners Renew Commitment to Improve Access to Safe Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation
  • USDA Announces Program to Facilitate the Export of Further Processed Eggs and Egg Products
  • Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Outlines USDA Efforts to Raise a Healthier Generation of Americans



  • Two Research Studies Published in The Plant Cell Journal



  • Public Comment Meetings: Access to Federal R&D Data and Publications
  • Nominations for Borlaug Field Award


Awards and Recognition

  • 2013 Connecting Youth with NRCE Award
  • Nanoscale Science and Engineering...One of the Top Read Articles
  • Small Steps to Health Wealth Receives Program of the Year Award


  • Next issue of NIFA Update is April 24, 2013

Richard O. Hegg

Richard Olaf Hegg, NIFA national program leader for manure and nutrient management in the Institute of Food Production and Sustainability’s Division of Agricultural Systems, passed away April 1.

He was born October 23, 1943, in Volga, SD, the son of Johan and Clara (Lunden) Hegg. He was raised on the family farm near Bruce, SD. He graduated from South Dakota State University with a B.S. degree in agricultural engineering. He went on to earn his M.S. from the University of Missouri and then received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. Hegg started working as an agricultural engineer for USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in St. Paul, MN. He then moved into academia and spent 23 years at Clemson University where he taught and did research until he was selected to head the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department. After retirement from Clemson University in 1998, he came to Washington, DC, to become a national program leader for agricultural engineering in the former Cooperative State Research Service. In 2002, he was honored as an Embassy Science Fellow at the American Embassy in Athens, Greece. Hegg was internationally recognized in his field and was elected to the Russian National Academy of Agricultural Scientists in 1993. He was awarded the highest recognition of “Fellow” in both the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and the International Agricultural Engineering Organization. He was selected as the 2010 Distinguished Engineering Alumni from South Dakota State University.

He is survived by his wife, Betsy Hegg, of Arlington, VA; his children, Rick Hegg of Arlington, VA, and Shannon Hegg of Mountain View, CA; two grandchildren, Yates and Parrish Hegg of Arlington, VA; his brother, Jim Hegg of Bruce, SD; his sister, JoAnn Weiland of St. Cloud, MN; and his mother Clara Hegg of Brookings, SD. Cards and letters may be sent to: 1101 S. Arlington Ridge Rd., #1210, Arlington, VA  22202. 

NIFA Names New Director of OIT Applications

Tina Chang is the Director of Applications in the Office of Information Technology. Chang joins NIFA from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Services where she was the director of applications development.  Prior to this position, she was an IT branch lead and also served as both a database and system administrator for NOAA. Before joining federal service Chang worked as a senior database engineer, senior analyst, database administrator, and software engineer. She received her B.S. in computer science from the University of Maryland and her M.S. from John Hopkins University also in computer science. Chang brings 20 years experience in software development.

USDA Announces Grants to Develop Childhood Obesity Prevention Programs

WASHINGTON, April 2 – USDA announced $5 million in four grants to universities throughout the nation to develop childhood obesity intervention programs. The awards were made by NIFA.

“Obesity is the number one nutritional problem in America and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity rates have tripled in the past 30 years,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “Our goal in funding these projects is to lower this rate in children and adolescents and put them on a healthy path for the rest of their lives.”

The long-term goal of USDA-sponsored obesity research is to reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents. This year’s funding supports research into the behavioral, social, and environmental factors that influence childhood obesity and how to develop and implement effective family, peer, community, and school-based interventions. The projects focus on adolescents ages 15 to 19. Visit the NIFA Newsroom to read the full release.

NIFA in the News


NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications

Funding Opportunity

Closing Date


Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Childhood Obesity Prevention

April 11, 2013

Deirdra Chester

AFRI-Climate Variability and Change

April 15, 2013

Michael A. Bowers

Extension Integrated Pest Management Coordination and Support Program (EIPM-CS)

April 16, 2013

Martin A. Draper

Minor Crop Pest Management Program Interregional Research Project #4 (IR-4)

April 16, 2013

Monte Johnson

Children, Youth and Families at Risk Professional Development and Technical Assistance Program

April 29, 2013

Bonita Williams

Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Fields Program (WAMS)

April 29, 2013

Saleia Afele-Faamuli

AgrAbility and Youth Farm Safety

May 1, 2013

Aida Balsano

Regional Integrated Pest Management Program - North Central Region (NC-RIPM)

May 16, 2013

Robert Nowierski

Regional Integrated Pest Management Program - Northeastern Region (NE-RIPM)

May 16, 2013

Robert Nowierski

Regional Integrated Pest Management Program - Southern Region (S-RIPM)

May 16, 2013

Robert Nowierski

Regional Integrated Pest Management Program - Western Region (W-RIPM)

May 16, 2013

Robert Nowierski

AFRI - Foundational Program: Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities

May 22, 2013

Robbin Shoemaker

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Food Security

July 17, 2013

Robbin Shoemaker

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Carbon Cycle Science

July 31, 2013

Nancy Cavallaro

Multi-partner Call on Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research

September 3, 2013

Nancy Cavallaro

Water Sustainability and Climate

September 10, 2013

Mary Ann Rozum


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 and Federal Partners Renew Commitment to Improve Access to Safe Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation

WASHINGTON, April 9 – Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager announced that USDA has signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Indian Health Service, and the U.S. Department of Interior to continue to work together to reduce by 50 percent the number of tribal homes lacking access to safe water and basic sanitation by 2015. The announcement was made during the 2013 Tribal Utility Summit in Nashville, TN. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.

USDA Announces Program to Facilitate the Export of Further Processed Eggs and Egg Products

WASHINGTON, April 3 – USDA, in collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has developed a program to certify processed eggs and egg products for export, providing new opportunities for U.S. food exporters. The USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will certify a wide range of products containing eggs, including omelets, frozen egg patties, crepes, hard boiled eggs, mayonnaise, and food containing egg extracts. The total market for U.S. exports of further processed eggs and egg products worldwide is estimated to be $500 million. AMS has unique capabilities in working with stakeholders to develop export certification programs that meet the specific requirements of other countries. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.

Partners with More States to Boost Program Integrity; Protect Taxpayer Investment 

WASHINGTON, April 3 – Agriculture Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon announced Washington and Ohio have joined a new federal-state partnership targeting recipient fraud in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as part of its SNAP Stewardship Solutions Project. Under the partnership, USDA shares its experience in monitoring retailer fraud with states to help them more aggressively target suspicious activity and improve tactics to catch recipients that attempt to commit SNAP fraud. The announcement involves the signing of data-sharing agreements between USDA and the states of Washington and Ohio, similar to the first-ever data-sharing agreements USDA signed with Maryland and Virginia earlier this month.

USDA will use data collected under these and other information-sharing agreements to develop an enhanced monitoring tool for states that is similar to USDA's state-of-the-art Anti-Fraud Locator using EBT Retailer Transactions (ALERT) system. USDA uses its ALERT system to closely monitor the seven million electronic retailer transactions that happen daily. ALERT helps USDA identify suspicious stores for analysis and investigation, better target high risk areas, and quickly implement fraud detection scans as new schemes are identified. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Outlines USDA Efforts to Raise a Healthier Generation of Americans

SIOUX FALLS, SD, March 28 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack discussed USDA efforts to improve access to healthy foods, and outlined the need for a renewed commitment to improve childhood nutrition, which includes empowering parents to provide healthy meals for their families.

Secretary Vilsack made two announcements, highlighting programs in USDA's Food and Nutrition Service designed to increase access and empower families to provide healthy foods. In the first, he announced that a pilot program initiated by USDA to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among students in the nation's poorest elementary schools resulted in 15 percent higher consumption among students in the program. The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program is part of USDA's focus on improving consumer access to healthy food, which can help our nation combat obesity and malnutrition – raising a healthier generation of young people. Secretary

Vilsack also announced the launch of the SNAP: Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Grant Program. This program expands the scope of the existing SNAP education program by providing states with additional flexibility to support targeted nutrition education and obesity prevention activities according to the needs of SNAP recipients and low-income families in their state. Under this new program, states could use the funding for a variety of activities, including bringing famers markets to low-income areas, developing policies for addressing food deserts in low-income areas, or educating SNAP retailers on how to stock healthier food options. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.


Two Research Studies Published in The Plant Cell Journal

  • Enzyme Reads DNA Code in Plants

A team of researchers from The Ohio State University (OSU) led by Jay Hollick, associate professor in OSU’s Department of Molecular Genetics, showed an important evolutionary function for an enzyme, RNA Polymerase IV (Pol IV), it reads the DNA code in plants. The enzyme, normally dedicated to reading the so called “junk DNA,” is responsible for the continuous expression, over generations, of a pigmentation gene that is not expressed in the corn kernel. This is an example of heritable epigenetic regulation (changing gene expression pattern without changing DNA sequence). This discovery has practical applications for future breeding efforts because a novel trait can be generated by altering the epigenetic status of gene regulation. The findings of this study can be found in The Plant Cell Journal, March 2013. This long-term research was funded in part by three separate Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service’s (now the National Institute of Food and Agriculture) awards for identifying the molecular components responsible for epigenetic inheritance in corn. 

  • New Hot Climate Lettuce Varieties

California and Arizona produce 90 percent of the lettuce in the United States. Most lettuce varieties are grown before the hot season begins. A research team led by Kent Bradford, University of California–Davis, has identified a gene and related enzyme from lettuce that are involved in preventing germination under hot weather conditions. This discovery will help plant breeders develop new lettuce varieties that can germinate in hot climate conditions. The results were published in The Plant Cell Journal, March 2013. This research was funded in part by NIFA.


Public Comment Meetings: Access to Federal R&D Data and Publications

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a policy memorandum entitled “Expanding Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research” on February 22. The memorandum directs each federal agency with over $100 million in annually conducted research and development expenditures to develop a plan to support public access to the results of research funded by the federal government. This includes any results published in peer-reviewed scholarly publications based on research that directly comes from federal funds. The plan also ensures that digitally formatted scientific data resulting from unclassified research supported wholly or in part by federal funding should be stored and publicly accessible to search, retrieve, and analyze. The memorandum calls for each agency to submit their draft plan to OSTP within 6 months of the issue date.

The National Academy of Sciences is holding public planning meetings on public access to federally funded research and development for Publications: May 14th-15th and Data: May 16th-17th, at the National Academy of Sciences, 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC. This is an opportunity to provide input on the implementation plans that are currently underway. Seating is limited but electronic participation is also available. Read the information flyer for additional meeting and registration details.

Nominations for Borlaug Field Award

The World Food Prize is seeking nominations for the Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation. This $10,000 award will recognize exceptional, science-based achievement in international agriculture and food production by an individual under age 40 who has clearly demonstrated intellectual courage, stamina, and determination in the fight to eliminate global hunger and poverty. 

The award will honor an individual who is working closely and directly "in the field" or at the production or processing level with farmers, animal herders, fishers, or others in rural communities, in any discipline or enterprise across the entire food production, processing, and distribution chain.

Visit the World Food Prize website for more information. Nominations are due June 30. The award will be presented during the World Food Prize October events, in Des Moines, IA. Questions may be directed to the World Food Prize Director Secretariat of Operations or phone at 515-245-3796.


2013 Connecting Youth with NRCE Award

The 4-H National Headquarters and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the 2013 Connecting Youth with Nature through Natural Resources Conservation Education Award was given to the Eagle’s Nest/Owl’s Roost Environmental Day Camp Project. 

Eagle’s Nest/Owl’s Roost (ENOR) is an Environmental Day Camp located in Jefferson County, CO, for students entering the 4th and 5th grades and has been a part of Jefferson County 4-H since 1974, educating nearly 15,000 youth. ENOR embodies many of the holistic and comprehensive developmental ideals that 4-H programs represent. This youth-focused project was selected based on its multiple outstanding qualities including, leadership in conservation, fostering stewardship, and providing interactive, hands-on learning opportunities for young people. The goal of ENOR is to have campers become ambassadors for nature who will inspire their families, friends, and neighbors to connect with the outdoors. These students will become the stewards of our natural world. Visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Newsroom to read the full announcement.

Nanoscale Science and Engineering...One of the Top Read Articles

Hongda Chen, NIFA national program leader for bioprocessing engineering/nanotechnology in the Division of Food Safety, and Norman Scott, professor in Cornell University’s Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, co-authored an article “Nanoscale Science and Engineering for Agriculture and Food Systems,” published in the December 2012 Industrial Biotechnology Journal. The article was rated one of the top five most-read articles. The journal is the first and longest-running publication to report the science, business, and policy developments of the emerging global bioeconomy.  

Small Steps to Health Wealth Receives Program of the Year Award

The national program, Small Steps to Health Wealth received this year’s Program of the Year Award presented by the Institute for Financial Literacy Adult’s Education on behalf of their involvement as Cooperative Extension Colleagues. The program was created by Rutgers University’s Karen Ensle, department head and associate professor in the Department of Family & Community Health Sciences, and Barbara O’Neill, Cooperative Extension financial resource management specialist. Their leadership and encouragement to implementing the program has provided great support, increased program acceptance, and improved the health and wealth of thousands of individuals nationwide.


The next NIFA issue is planned for April 24, 2013. Submit news items to: by April 17. 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: 4/10/2013