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NIFA Update — December 22 , 2010

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.

NIFA

  • From the Director to the NIFA Team
  • NIFA Announces Principal Scientist Positions
  • NIFA Names New Communications Staff Director
  • NPL Joins the Division of Family and Consumer Sciences
  • NIFA/NSF Announce Joint Program on Disaster Resilience
  • NIFA-Supported Research at Virginia Tech Leads to Greater Understanding of Downy Mildew Disease
  • NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications

USDA

  • USDA Announces Final Environmental Impact Statement for Genetically Engineered Alfalfa
  • 21st Session of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade
  • USDA Seeks Conservation Partnership Proposals to Improve Water Quality in Chesapeake Bay Watershed
  • USDA Announces Assistance for Farmers and Ranchers Who Suffer Losses Due to Natural Disasters
  • Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Plenary and Dinner Speakers for USDA’s 2011 Agricultural Outlook Forum
  • USDA Requests Proposals for Water and Land Conservation Projects
  • USDA Researchers Receive Prestigious Presidential Award for Early Career Scientists
  • USDA Introduces an Online Tool to Assist Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers
  • Statement from Agriculture Secretary Vilsack on U.S.-Mexico Agricultural Trade Relationship — December 10, 2010
  • Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces New Steps to Meet the Challenge of Climate Change
  • USDA Moves to the Microsoft Cloud
  • Keep America Beautiful and the Department of Agriculture Team Up to Grow Nearly 700 People's Gardens
  • Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Statement on U.S.- Korea Trade Agreement — December 3, 2010

 

Partners

  • RRDCs and Rural Development Roll Out Training Program

Mailbox
 

From the Director to the NIFA team

It is a pleasure to send you an upbeat report about the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) at the end of 2010, a year that has seen its share of ups and downs.

A lot has happened during NIFA’s first year, and by October we were given the authority to establish the four institutes that have been discussed for nearly a year, the

  • Institute of Food Production and Sustainability;
  • Institute of Bioenergy, Climate, and Environment;
  • Institute of Food Safety and Nutrition; and
  • Institute of Youth, Family, and Community.

We recently initiated the formal process of searching for Principal Scientists that will co‐lead the institutes with the Assistant Directors. We hope to commence the search for other leadership positions soon.  

During this past year the NIFA team released Requests for Applications for grants that will support research, education, and extension work to address the societal grand challenges that form the primary focus of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) competitive grants program. We had a rich exchange with the stakeholders who carry out the research, education, and extension programs funded by NIFA on behalf of USDA. We also increased our discussions and our work with the 1994 tribal colleges, the 1890 colleges, and Hispanic‐serving institutions. The expansion of work with these minority-serving institutions is well received. I am very proud of the work that you have done in these important areas.

As we move to NIFA’s second year we continue to receive strong support from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and USDA Under Secretary Cathie Woteki, who recently joined the department as the new leader of the Research, Education, and Economics team. The Secretary demonstrated his support for the NIFA mission through his frequent public references to our agency’s science and education work. I continue to interact with the Office of Science and Technology Policy to find ways to increase the competitively awarded programs and to maintain capacity funds as an integral component of successful research and extension activities that support a strong food and agriculture sector.

In this last year we have worked hard to raise the visibility of science in USDA, in units of the White House, with other science agencies, and in organizations and associations that support science in Washington, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academies of Sciences, and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. We are making progress!

As we enter 2011, we do so with a new and clearer vision and expectations for what USDA science will accomplish. I am very much looking forward to refining and implementing the vision of NIFA’s mission statement: “Leading Food and Agricultural Sciences to Create a Better Future for the Nation and the World.” I remain confident that we can achieve NIFA’s goals because of you and the work that you all do. I thank each of you for your dedication and your effort.

I wish you and yours a happy and safe holiday season and a New Year that exceeds your greatest expectations.


Roger Beachy
NIFA Director

 

NIFA Announces Principal Scientist Positions

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) recently reorganized to a structure with four institutes. Each institute is co-led by an Assistant Director and a Principal Scientist. The Assistant Director provides leadership for the administration of programs that comprise the institute. The Principal Scientist provides the scientific leadership to programs assigned to the institute. More information about NIFA can be found on the website. NIFA is seeking to fill the following four Principal Scientist positions, as either permanent (PERM), term (TERM), or under an Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) appointment:

  • Principal Scientist of the Institute of Bioenergy, Climate, and Environment (PERM) (NIFA-SL: 10-06)
  • Principal Scientist of the Institute of Bioenergy, Climate, and Environment (TERM) (NIFA-SL: 10-07)

  • Principal Scientist of the Institute of Food Production and Sustainability (PERM) (NIFA-SL: 10-08)
  • Principal Scientist of the Institute of Food Production and Sustainability (TERM) (NIFA-SL: 10-09)

  • Principal Scientist of the Institute of Food Safety and Nutrition (PERM) (NIFA-SL: 10-10)
  • Principal Scientist of the Institute of Food Safety and Nutrition (TERM) (NIFA-SL: 10-11)

  • Principal Scientist of the Institute of Youth, Family, and Community (PERM) (NIFA-SL: 10-12)
  • Principal Scientist of the Institute of Youth, Family, and Community (TERM) (NIFA-SL: 10-13)

Principal Scientist positions are Senior Level (SL) positions. The federal salary ranges from $119,554 to $179,700. A copy of each job announcement is located on the Office of Personnel Management web page. As specified in each job announcement, applicants must meet mandatory qualifications and address specific technical qualifications. Veterans’ preference applies, and U.S. citizenship is required. The job announcements listed above identify these four positions as a permanent or a term position, which is a competitive appointment for a period of more than 1 year but not more than 4 years. Candidates applying for permanent and term appointments should clearly identify in their applications the type(s) of appointment desired, indicate the corresponding vacancy announcement number(s), and submit the documents required in the job announcements through USAJOBS.
 
In addition, NIFA will consider filling these positions under an Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) appointment. The IPA allows for a temporary assignment (detail) of skilled employees from local, state, and Indian tribal government, institutions of higher education, and other eligible organizations to federal government agencies. IPAs remain employees of their permanent organizations; appointments can be made for up to 2 years and may be extended an additional 2 years under specific conditions. Cost of the assignment (including salary, benefits, relocation cost, travel, and per diem expenses) are negotiated between participating organizations. Applicants applying only for an IPA appointment should submit a resume and address the specific technical qualifications identified for the position(s).To obtain the technical qualifications and/or receive additional information relating to IPA appointments, contact Rhonda Pratt (301-504-1475).
   
All applications must be received by January 31, 2011. Contact Deborah Crump (301-504-1448) for more information about the application process. Contact Betty Lou Gilliland (202-720-5506) to learn more about NIFA.

NIFA Names New Communications Staff Director

Ellen Frank is the new NIFA Communications Staff director. She will assume these duties on January 18, 2011. 

Frank comes to NIFA from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), where she has worked since 1996. Her most recent FDA position was the director of the Division of Public Affairs for the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. She was responsible for all aspects of national multimedia education campaigns to inform the public about the safe use of prescription and nonprescription medicines. 

She has held federal public affairs positions at the Department of Health and Human Services, David Taylor Research Center, and Defense Mapping Agency. Frank also served in the U.S. Army and the Army National Guard for 13 years, attaining the rank of captain. She received her B.S. degree in agriculture from Cornell University.

NPL Joins the Division of Family and Consumer Sciences

Beverly Samuel joined NIFA on December 6th and provides national leadership to the research, extension, and education functions of the NIFA partnership on housing affordability and foreclosure prevention, micro-enterprise development of agri-businesses, home systems and environments, disaster preparedness and response (housing issues), and community living. Prior to joining NIFA, Samuel served 25 years with the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service. She is affiliated with the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences and Epsilon Sigma Phi. She is located in the Waterfront Centre, in Room 4427, and can be reached at 202-720-6059.

NIFA/NSF Announce Joint Program on Disaster Resilience

NIFA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the availability of approximately $2 million in FY 2011 to advance basic research in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences and in engineering on enhancing disaster resilient rural communities. This joint program supports research needed to develop technologies, processes, and systems to enhance the sustainability of rural communities. 

NSF released the FY 2011 RFA announcement for both agencies. Applications must be submitted in response to the announcement by March 4, 2011. Applicants are required to address at least one of the following topics, or a combination, in terms of the vulnerabilities and resilience of rural communities to natural hazards or risks from accidents at facilities such as chemical plants: hazard mitigation practices, hazard preparedness and emergency response, and disaster recovery in rural communities.This competition will not support terrorism research. Visit the NSF website for more details. FY 2010 awards are located on the NIFA website.

Contact Robert E. O’Connor, program director, Social Behavioral and Economic Science, NSF; or Suresh Sureshwaran, NIFA national program leader in the Division of Agricultural Systems.

NIFA-Supported Research at Virginia Tech Leads to Greater Understanding of Downy Mildew Disease

WASHINGTON, December 9, 2010 – An international team of scientists, who received partial funding from NIFA, have mapped the genome of the plant pathogen that produces major losses to crops such as corn, grapes, and lettuce.

The genome sequence of Hyaloperonospora arabidopsidis, the pathogen that causes downy mildew disease, is published this week in the journal Science. In the paper, researchers compare the sequence of H. arabidopsidis with other fully sequenced genomes of destructive plant pathogens to shed light on the differences in the ways microbes interact with their host and how those differences evolve. The study could lead to new ways to investigate how these pathogens cause plant disease and find new ways to prevent plant loss in the future. Visit the NIFA Newsroom to read NIFA-Supported Research at Virginia Tech Leads to Greater Understanding of Downy Mildew Disease.

 

NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications

Funding Opportunity Closing Date Contact

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program

December 22, 2011

Siva Sureshwaran

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

January 18, 2011

Gregory Smith

International Science and Education Competitive Grants Program

January 19, 2011

Patricia Fulton

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

January 19, 2011

Monte Johnson

Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI)

January 31, 2011

Thomas Bewick

Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants Program

February 2, 2011

Shing F Kwok

Higher Education Challenge Grants

February 4, 2011

Gregory Smith

1890 Facilities Grants Program

February 8, 2011

P.S. Benepal

Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative

February 10, 2011

Mary Monnig Peet

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

February 25, 2011

Ed Kaleikau

Disaster Resilience for Rural Communities

March 4, 2011

Siva Sureshwaran

Resident Instruction Grants Program for Institutions of Higher Education in Insular Areas

April 8, 2011

Gregory Smith

New Era Rural Technology Competitive Grants Program (RTP)

April 15, 2011

Gregory Smith


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.

USDA Announces Final Environmental Impact Statement for Genetically Engineered Alfalfa

Washington, December 16, 2010 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the availability of the final environmental impact statement (EIS) that evaluates the potential environmental effects of deregulating alfalfa genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, which is known commercially as Roundup. This GE alfalfa is commonly referred to as Roundup Ready alfalfa.

“Our goal with the EIS, first and foremost, is to recognize and consider the many concerns that we have heard from all segments of agriculture,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We are equally committed to finding solutions that support not only the developers and users of biotechnology products, but growers who rely on purity in the non-genetically engineered seed supply.” Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full announcement USDA Announces Final Environmental Impact Statement for Genetically Engineered Alfalfa.

21st Session of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade 

Washington, December 15, 2010 – The 21st session of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) in Washington, DC, has come to an end. The JCCT was co-chaired by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, along with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack also participated in the discussions. The outcomes will make U.S. businesses more competitive in China, help boost U.S. exports and jobs, and increase market access for U.S. businesses, creators, innovators, entrepreneurs, farmers, and ranchers seeking to do business in China. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release on the 21st Session of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade.  

USDA Seeks Conservation Partnership Proposals to Improve Water Quality in Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Washington, December 16, 2010 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced USDA is seeking partner proposals to implement conservation practices with the greatest potential for improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making available up to $3.5 million in financial assistance in FY2011 for single state and multistate partnership projects that address natural resource concerns within six Chesapeake Bay Watershed states—Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. The financial assistance is available through NRCS’ Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative. Proposals will be accepted through January 31, 2011. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release USDA Seeks Conservation Partnership Proposals to Improve Water Quality in Chesapeake Bay Watershed

USDA Announces Assistance for Farmers and Ranchers Who Suffer Losses Due to Natural Disasters

Washington, December 15, 2010 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the sign-up period for the 2009 crop year Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) program begins on January 10, 2011. SURE is one of five disaster programs included in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 that provides assistance to farmers and ranchers who have suffered losses due to natural disasters. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release USDA Announces Assistance for Farmers and Ranchers who suffer Losses Due to Natural Disasters.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Plenary and Dinner Speakers for USDA’s 2011 Agricultural Outlook Forum

Washington, December 15, 2010 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the speakers for USDA's annual Agricultural Outlook Forum titled "Today's Strategies & Tomorrow's Opportunities." The forum will be held February 24-25, 2011, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, VA. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Plenary and Dinner Speakers for USDA’s 2011 Agricultural Outlook Forum.

USDA Requests Proposals for Water and Land Conservation Projects

Washington, December 14, 2010 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is seeking proposals for projects that will bring partners together to help farmers, ranchers, and private nonindustrial forest landowners implement beneficial water and land conservation practices. The requirements for submitting project proposals for the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) and the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative can be viewed at the regulations.gov website. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide financial and technical assistance to eligible producers in approved project areas.

NRCS enters into partnership agreements with federally recognized Indian tribes, state and local units of government, agricultural and forestland associations, and nongovernmental organizations to help landowners plan and implement conservation practices in designated project areas. Twenty-eight projects approved for AWEP in FY 2010 are supporting water conservation efforts in nine states. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release USDA Requests Proposals for Water and Land Conservation Projects.

USDA Researchers Receive Prestigious Presidential Award for Early Career Scientists

WASHINGTON, December 13, 2010 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the three USDA researchers named recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers—the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their research careers. The recipients were officially named by President Obama earlier this month and recognized in a formal ceremony at the White House.

The department’s recipients are:

  • Lee K. Cerveny, Forest Service research social scientist—recognized for a decade of science contributions that have elevated understanding of the human dimensions of natural resource management in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

  • Michael L. Looper, Agricultural Research Service animal scientist—recognized for his work since 2002 that has enhanced the understanding of livestock management practices, especially concerning systematic approaches of animal production. 

  • Jeffrey S. Ross-Ibarra, University of California-Davis assistant professor—recognized for his research in using a novel approach, based on population genetics, to identify genes that would be useful in improving varieties of corn. NIFA funded the research project.

The awards, established by President Bill Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by USDA’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.

USDA Introduces an Online Tool to Assist Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers

Washington, December 13, 2010 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the department has established an online tool that can link retiring farmers who have expiring Conservation Reserve Program contracts with beginning farmers or ranchers who are interested in bringing the land into production. The new online resource, TIP Net, is a website provided by the Farm Service Agency. Through the Transition Incentives Program (TIP), producers with land for sale or lease are introduced to qualified beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers who want to buy or rent land for their operations.

“The interest in TIP during the first 6 months of implementation has far exceeded our expectations,” said Vilsack. “This tool should make TIP even more effective in facilitating the transition of land to our next generation of farmers.” Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release USDA Introduces an Online Tool to Assist Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces New Steps to Meet the Challenge of Climate Change

Cancun, Mexico, December 9, 2010 – Calling it “one of the greatest threats facing our planet,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is taking action to meet the challenge of climate change. Speaking at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, the Secretary said USDA continues to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions “by helping farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to be even better conservationists.”

Vilsack said USDA will demonstrate ways landowners can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration while improving their financial bottom line. The effort includes providing opportunities to leverage private sector demand for greenhouse gas mitigation services, evaluating how emerging greenhouse gas markets can work in concert with USDA programs to protect the environment, and building capacity within USDA to understand voluntary greenhouse gas markets and to explore improved approaches for greenhouse gas accounting systems. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces New Steps to Meet the Challenge of Climate Change.

USDA Moves to the Microsoft Cloud 

Washington, December 8, 2010 – USDA announced that it is on the verge of going live with a commercial cloud service offering for its Enterprise Messaging Service (EMS) which includes email, web conferencing, document collaboration, and instant messaging. USDA will become the first cabinet-level agency to move its email and collaboration applications to the “cloud,” a rapidly growing form of computing involving flexible, scalable services delivered over the Internet.

With the maturity of commercial cloud services, and as part of its internal EMS solution to consolidate 120,000 users spread across 21 email systems, USDA awarded a competed contract to Dell in May 2010 for Microsoft Online Services. This migration is the culmination of USDA CIO Chris Smith's effort to streamline agency messaging, reduce costs, and improve efficiencies that build on existing infrastructure and allow USDA to extend its on-premise software investments agreements to the cloud solution. The software as a service deployment will include Exchange Online for messaging and calendaring, SharePoint Online for document collaboration, Office Communications Online for instant messaging, and Office Live Meeting for web conferencing. Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release USDA Moves to the Microsoft Cloud. 

Keep America Beautiful and the Department of Agriculture Team Up to Grow Nearly 700 People's Gardens

Stamford, Conn., December 7, 2010 – Keep America Beautiful affiliate organizations have responded to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) call to action in sustaining nearly 700 community gardens this past year as partners in the USDA's People's Garden Initiative. These gardens are in addition to the nearly 600 People's Gardens created by USDA employees.

“Real and effective change starts small and it starts in our communities,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “With the help of Keep America Beautiful we can ensure that the ideas behind the People's Garden are adopted and improved upon in communities across the country.”
“Keep America Beautiful affiliates have always been leaders in beautification and community greening at the grassroots level,” said Keep America Beautiful President and CEO Matthew McKenna. “The People's Gardens initiative, and our partnership with the USDA, is a demonstration of how the work of our affiliates fosters civic pride and sustainable gardening throughout the country.” Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release Keep America Beautiful and the Department of Agriculture Team Up to Grow Nearly 700 People's Gardens.

 

 

RRDCs and USDA-Rural Development Roll Out Training Program

Today’s trend is for rural communities to collaborate new economic opportunities that will lead to sustainable development and rural prosperity. The NIFA Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDC) are partnering with USDA’s Rural Development to roll out training across the country in regional innovation. The RRDCs and Cooperative Extension are bringing training called “Stronger Economies Together” (SET) to 22 selected economic development groups in 8 pilot states.  Selected regions receive 20+ hours of training on how to become a successful economic region. SET is designed to provide a roadmap on how communities can develop and implement viable regional economic development strategies. Bo Beaulieu is director of the Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University and also SET coordinator. In the Western Region, Dianna Jennings, special projects coordinator for Rural Development in Phoenix, AZ, and Michael Patrick, extension specialist with New Mexico State University, are leading SET training in Arizona. Contact Sally Maggard, NIFA national program leader, for more information about the RRDCs and SET.

 

For a plain text copy of this newsletter, please contact Judy Rude. NIFA UPDATE is published biweekly. The next NIFA issue is planned for January 12. Submit news items to mailto:newsletter@nifa.usda.gov by January 5.

Editor:  Judy Rude, public affairs specialist, NIFA Communications Staff. If you have questions about Update, please contact her.

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.

Roger Beachy, 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.