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You are here:Home / Newsroom / Newsletters / NIFA Updates / NIFA Update–June 26, 2014

NIFA Update — June 26, 2014

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.


  • Dr. Colien Hefferan to Retire
  • Input Invitation for BFRDP
  • RFA Extended for Alfalfa and Forage Research Program
  • Reminder — NIFA Partnership Awards
  • USDA Announces Availability of Funding to Support Agriculture and Food Science Facilities at Ohio’s Central State University
  • NIFA to Improve Customer Support
  • New SBIR Program Coordinator Joins NIFA
  • Lockhart Joins Budget Office
  • Sweet Named FMB Branch Chief
  • NIFA Blogs
  • NIFA in the News
  • NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications


Smith-Lever — Centennial Celebration

  • Centennial Convocation Activities via Videos/Photographs
  • Next Centennial Webinar Scheduled for July 16th



  • USDA Implements New Farm Bill Programs, Unveiling New Centralized Online Resource to Support Next Generation of Farmers
  • USDA Provides $8 Million to Help Boost Declining Honey Bee Population
  • USDA Pledges Financial Support for Chesapeake Bay Water Quality Partnerships
  • La Valley Named UNH Interim Dean/Director
  • Virtual Toolbox Empowers Sheep and Goat Farmers
  • Next issue of NIFA Update is July 9, 2014


Dr. Colien Hefferan to Retire

Dr. Colien Hefferan, Director of the U. S. National Arboretum, will retire from federal service on June 28.  She worked in public service at several research universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for more than four decades.  Until the creation of NIFA in 2009, she served as the Administrator of the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service for 9 years. She joined USDA in 1979 where she worked for the Agricultural Research Service’s Family Economics Research Group.  She transferred to the Cooperative State Research Service in 1988, where she held several different positions including Administrator in 2000. She can be reached at colien.hefferan@gmail.com  beginning June 30.

Input Invitation for BFRDP

NIFA is seeking stakeholder input to the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program from program applicants; national, state, tribal, and local organizations and others who operate beginning farmer and rancher programs; farmers and ranchers involved in beginning farmer and rancher training programs; and any other interested individuals or organizations. Stakeholder input is welcome at any time, but to be incorporated into the 2015 planning cycle, it must be received by July 3 via email to bfrdp@nifa.usda.gov (please type “Comments” in the subject line), or fax to 202-401-6070 addressed to BFRDP Program Staff.

RFA Extended for Alfalfa and Forage Research Program

The application deadline for the 2014 NIFA Alfalfa and Forage Research Program has been extended to July 11, 2014. The program goal is to improve alfalfa and forage yield and seed yield of crops grown for propagation, improve persistence of plantings, reduce pest pressure for both forage and seed production, improve genetic quality of commercial cultivars, and reduce losses during harvest and storage.  For more program information including a link to the Request for Applications (RFA), visit the NIFA website.  

Reminder -- NIFA Partnership Awards

NIFA invites all land-grant universities and cooperating institutions and organizations supported by NIFA to submit nominations for the 2014 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 Programs and Projects
  • Effective and Efficient Use of Resources
  • Program Improvement through Global Engagement


Nominations may be submitted for individuals or teams of up to 20 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. All signed nomination forms must be submitted by July 15, 2014, via email using scanned files that have been saved as .pdf or .jpg files to performance@ars.usda.gov according to instructions in the following documents Criteria for Selection and The NIFA Partnership Awards Nomination Form.

Winning nominations will be recognized at the NIFA Day of Appreciation, tentatively scheduled for October 16, 2014. NIFA will pay travel expenses for one person from each winning nomination. 

USDA Announces Availability of Funding to Support Agriculture and Food Science Facilities at Ohio’s Central State University

WASHINGTON, June 23 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the availability of funds to support food and agriculture science facility improvement at Central State University (CSU) in Wilberforce, OH. CSU was designated as an 1890 land-grant university in the 2014 Farm Bill. The funding announced is a supplement to the 1890s Facilities Grants Program administered by NIFA.

“Land-grant universities have provided access to quality education for underserved communities for nearly 125 years. The addition of Central State University to the land-grant community opens more opportunities for quality research, education, and extension work in communities throughout Ohio,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “These grants provide resources to improve research and education facilities, and will allow CSU to address its research and academic needs.”

NIFA requested renewal proposals from existing 1890 land-grant universities earlier this month. The total funding available for this program is $19 million. CSU is eligible for $1.3 million. The application deadline is August 1. Visit the NIFA Newsroom to read the full release.

NIFA Creates Customer Support Center

NIFA is creating a Customer Service Center as part of its strategy to improve business procedures and technical services. Historically, NIFA has never operated a Customer Service Center. Customers had to contact a number of offices when trying to find answers to their questions. This resulted in many unanswered questions, being transferred to many offices, and much frustration. In an effort to improve customer service and provide better response times, NIFA’s Customer Service Center will be a one-stop shopping center. This project is underway and NIFA’s Proposal Services Team (PST) is leading this process. PST has addressed pre-award related questions and recently expanded their support to include NIFA’s REEport system.  By the end of September 2014, PST will be helping customers to access NIFA’s portal, which is the gateway to a number of systems. Plans are also underway to expand the Customer Service Center to include Awards Management Division and Financial Operations Division functions next year.  NIFA believes the centralized Customer Service Center will improve our customer support levels for the people we serve. More details will be provided as they become available.

New SBIR Program Coordinator Joins NIFA

Scott Dockum is the new program coordinator for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. Scott brings his biology and environmental sciences knowledge, as well as his expertise in program management, program development, policy development/implementation, government business processes, and peer review practices to SBIR. He began his career as a contractor to the U.S. Department of Defense where he was a project manager involved in the funding of innovative research and development programs and environmental site remediation. Dockum worked for NIFA as the SBIR program specialist for 4 years and then moved to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) where he managed the day-to-day operations of the Chief Information Officer policy program. He was the lead liaison between EPA’s Office of Environmental Information and the Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Governmental Accountability Office. Dockum is located in the Waterfront Centre in Room 3208 and can be reached at 202-720-6346.

Lockhart Joins Budget Office

Shaina Lockhart recently joined NIFA as a budget analyst with the Budget Office. She served as a budget analyst for the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) prior to joining NIFA. Lockhart worked with the National Park Service budget for the National Mall and Memorial Parks while at DOI. Her experience includes budget execution, monitoring operating budgets, and reporting budget data. She has helped with the formulation, justification, and budget presentations. Lockhart is located in the Waterfront Centre in Room 1175 and can be reached at 202-720-5361.

Sweet Named FMB Branch Chief 

Jeffrey Sweet was named Funds Management Branch (FMB II) chief.  Sweet has served as the team leader of the Cash Reconciliation Team 1 (CRT) under FMB II/Financial Operations Division prior to his appointment. He has also worked as an accountant at the U.S. Department of Treasury. Recently, he and other FMB II team members helped resolve an $8 million in cash difference. His experience includes reconciliation, cash management, analysis, and reporting.  He joined the agency in April 2007 and has taken the lead on many tasks within the agency. He received a B.S. from Texas Tech University. Sweet is located in the Waterfront Centre in Room 2230 and can be reached at 202-403-0423. His effective date is June 29.

NIFA Blogs

Turning up the heat in battle against chili pepper root rot By Scott Elliott, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (June 17, 2014)

Good news for those who crave culinary heat — from the chili pepper aficionados who “eat fire” to those who prefer more subtle flavors — researchers have found a way to help ensure that more of their favorite foods will be available on store shelves.
Scientists at University of California–Davis have identified a candidate gene that encodes natural resistance to Phytophthora capsici, a fungus-like pathogen that causes root rot in peppers. P. capsici is a major limiting factor to chili production worldwide. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full blog.

NIFA in the News


NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications

Funding Opportunity

Closing Date


Biodiesel Fuel Education

June 27, 2014

Daniel Cassidy

Critical Agricultural Materials

June 27, 2014

Daniel Cassidy

Integrated Research, Education, and Extension Competitive Grants Program - National Integrated Water Quality Program (NIWQP)

July 3, 2014

James P. Dobrowolski

Healthy Homes Partnership

July 7, 2014

Beverly Samuel

Sun Grant Program

July 9, 2014

Daniel Cassidy

1890 Facilities Grants Program (Renewals)

July 11, 2014

Edwin Lewis

Alfalfa and Forage Research Program

July 11, 2014

Thomas Bewick

Renewable Resources Extension Act-National Focus Fund Projects (RREA-NFF)

July 16, 2014

Eric Norland

1890 Facilities Grants Program (Central State University)

August 1, 2014

Edwin Lewis

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Foundational Program: Critical Agricultural Research and Extension (CARE)

August 7, 2014

Martin A. Draper

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Water for Agriculture

August 13, 2014

James P. Dobrowolski

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

September 24, 2014

Mark A. Mirando

Specialty Crop Research Initiative/Citrus Disease Research and Extension (SCRI/CDRE)

September 29, 2014

Thomas Bewick

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Foundational Program

September 30, 2014

Effie Baldwin

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Foundational Program: Exploratory

September 30, 2014

Michael A. Bowers

Small Business Innovation Research Program: Phase I

October 2, 2014

Charles F. Cleland


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.


Centennial Convocation Activities via Videos/Photographs

If you were unable to join us for the ECOP Centennial Convocation on May 7-8, key video segments are available for viewing along with still photographs taken during the activities. Watch the impressive state flag parade and hear the keynote speakers talk about where they feel Cooperative Extension will be in the next 100 years.
View the representatives of the Cooperative Extension Service, Delbert Foster; NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy; and National 4-H Council CEO Jennifer Sirangelo sign the Memorandum of Understanding clarifying each other’s roles and responsibilities as 4-H members witness the historic event.

The University of Georgia presented a video of President Jimmy Carter in which he talked about being a 4-H’er, peanut farmer, public servant, and a statesman because of the importance of Cooperative Extension to his family and throughout his life, and how crucial extension will be in the future of feeding the world.

For the Virtual Centennial festivities, eXtension is featuring the Cooperative Extension’s Centennial this month in the online Virtual World Second Life. The celebration includes a Virtual State Fair decorated with a Centennial theme, live musical performances, educational exhibits, live stream of the Centennial Convocation and a fun video recorded entirely on eXtension’s Morrill regions.

Next Centennial Webinar Scheduled for July 16th

In celebration of the Extension Centennial, Mu Chapter of Epsilon Sigma Phil is sponsoring monthly webinars to share the successes of Cooperative Extension. Each month focuses on a new topic. All webinars can be viewed via Adobe Connect.

Upcoming webinars include:

July 16, Noon, EDT

Joy Landis, Michigan State University − Extension Integrated Pest Management for diverse audiences and diverse needs

August 13, Noon, EDT

JC Johnson, Command CMSgt. (Ret.) USAF National Director, Project Yes, North Carolina State University – Exploring the many levels of Project Yes!

August 26, Noon, EDT

Sekai Turner, 4-H Youth Development Specialist, North Carolina A&T State University – Building Intercultural Trust: Engaging Cherokee youth and families in the 4-H National Mentoring Program

September 17, Noon, EST

Dennis vanEngelsdorp, University of Maryland – Bee Informed Partnership: An AFRI Extension project to improve pollinator health

October 8, Noon, EST

Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA Director – 21st Century Extension

October 15, Noon, EST

Susan Givens-Seymour, Director of Cooperative Extension, Outreach and Community Education, Northwest Indian College – Traditional Foods: Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program and 1994 Extension in Indian Culture

November 12, 1 p.m., EST

Ninfa Peña-Purcell, Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension – Rural Health and Safety Education grant program in the area of diabetes self-management education with Hispanic and African-American populations

December TBD

Chris Watkins, Director, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Cornell University – Urban Extension in New York City


USDA Implements New Farm Bill Programs, Unveiling New Centralized Online Resource to Support Next Generation of Farmers

DAVIS, Calif., June 23 − U.S. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden  announced the implementation of new Farm Bill measures and other policy changes to improve the financial security of new and beginning farmers and ranchers. Harden also unveiled www.usda.gov/newfarmers , a new website that will provide a centralized, one-stop resource where beginning farmers and ranchers can explore the variety of USDA initiatives designed to help them succeed.

USDA's New Farmers website has in-depth information for new farmers and ranchers, including: how to increase access to land and capital; build new market opportunities; participate in conservation opportunities; select and use the right risk management tools; and access USDA education and technical support programs. These issues have been identified as top priorities by new farmers. The website will also feature instructive case studies about beginning farmers who have successfully utilized USDA resources to start or expand their business operations.  Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.

USDA Provides $8 Million to Help Boost Declining Honey Bee Population

WASHINGTON, June 20 − USDA announced $8 million in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) incentives for Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin farmers and ranchers who establish new habitats for declining honey bee populations. More than half of the commercially managed honey bees are in these five states during the summer. This announcement comes in addition to $3 million USDA designated to the Midwest states to support bee populations earlier this year through the Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
"American agricultural production relies on having a healthy honey bee population," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "In recent years, factors such as diseases, parasites, pesticides or habitat loss have contributed to a significant decline in the honey bee population.”

The new CRP pollinator initiative is designed to further enhance current CRP land, allowing it to provide better access to nutritious pollinator forage. The program allows for managing or replacing existing vegetation, known as 'covers,' with lower cost, high nutrition seed mixes that can support distinct blooming cycles of plants that benefit pollinators. Honey bees, the pollinator workhorse of U.S. fruit and vegetable agriculture, will have more blooms from which to collect nectar and pollen to sustain and promote colony growth and honey production throughout the growing season. By assisting honey bees, the pollinator initiative helps USDA continue to secure the food supply. More than $15 billion worth of agricultural production, including over 130 fruits and vegetables, depend on the health and well-being of honey bees. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.

USDA Pledges Financial Support for Chesapeake Bay Water Quality Partnerships

WASHINGTON, June 19 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretaries Robert Bonnie and Michael Scuse pledged up to $5 million to state and local partnerships in six states for accelerating tree planting along the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The pledge was made at a summit in Washington, DC, attended by leaders of Chesapeake Bay water quality restoration efforts.
The conference marks the start of an accelerated strategy of the Chesapeake Riparian Forest Buffer Initiative to promote the establishment of more forested areas, known as "riparian forest buffers," along streams and rivers of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, providing natural barriers that can filter sediment, chemicals, and other contaminants from entering into the waterway.

The USDA financial assistance will provide more incentives to private landowners interested in participating in the Farm Service Agency's voluntary Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). Each Chesapeake Bay state has a CREP in place, which collectively cover the entire watershed. To date, about $500 million in USDA financial assistance has been provided or obligated to farmers enrolling land in the six CREPs. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.


La Valley Named UNH Interim Dean/Director

Ken La Valley became the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Cooperative Extension’s interim dean and director effective June 19. He has been a member of the administrative team at UNH since 2010 and associate director for programs. He is also the associate director of outreach for the newly formed School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering. He has also worked as a commercial fisheries and aquaculture state specialist and extension faculty member. La Valley received his B.S. with honors in zoology from UNH 1993, an M.S. in fisheries aquaculture and veterinary science in 1996, and a Ph.D. in environmental science in 2005, from the University of Rhode Island. His contact information is: Dr. Ken La Valley, Interim Director, University of New Hampshire, 201 Taylor Hall, 59 College Road, Durham, NH 03824, telephone: 603-862-4343.

Virtual Toolbox Empowers Sheep and Goat Farmers

Sheep and goats offer a solid return on investment, particularly for beginning, small-scale, and limited-resource farmers. But there is a lot to learn, so success can be a challenge. Now, farmers and extension educators have an expansive new resource available to them in the Small Ruminant Toolbox. The toolbox is a collection of practical, proven materials that cover a wide variety of topics, including pasture and herd management, marketing, pest management, quality of life, and whole-farm sustainability. Toolbox materials are free to access online or can be purchased on a USB flash drive on the SARE Toolbox website. Linda Coffey, a National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) specialist, and a team of sheep and goat specialists created the toolbox through a 2008 Southern SARE grant, with limited USB distribution. Due to the toolbox’s popularity, NCAT and SARE have now partnered to reissue the USB and post the materials online.


The next NIFA Update issue is planned for July 9, 2014. Submit news items to: newsletter@nifa.usda.gov by July 4, 2014. 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: 05/20/2014