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You are here:Home / Newsroom / Newsletters / NIFA Updates / NIFA Update - September 28, 2011

NIFA Update — September 28, 2011

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 Releases 2010 AFRI Synopsis
  • NIFA Seeks Assistant Director of the Institute of Youth, Family, and Community
  • Research Summit Maps Future of Plant Science
  • Hawaii Delegation Visits NIFA
  • FCS Welcomes Two Visiting Scholars
  • Williams Appointed NPL in Division of Food Safety
  • NIFA Awards $4 Million for Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grants projects
  • NIFA in the News
  • NIFA Lists Open Requests for Grant Applications



  • Trade Mission to Vietnam Aims to Create American Jobs and Business Opportunities for U.S. Agriculture
  • Statement from Secretary Vilsack on Receipt of Chairman’s Award from the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities
  • Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Funding for more than 500 Projects to Boost Renewable Energy Production, Reduce Energy Costs for Producers and Rural Small Businesses  



  • University of Vermont Program Assists Hurricane Irene Victims
  • NIFA-Nominated Scientist Wins Presidential Award



  • National eXtension Virtual Conference
  • What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?
  • AICAP to Hold Final Conference



  • Next Issue Scheduled October 12

NIFA Releases 2010 AFRI Synopsis

NIFA Stakeholders:

I am pleased to share with you the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) fiscal year (FY) 2010 Synopsis.  Research, education, and extension efforts supported by these grants address some of our nation’s most pressing challenges, and — as the report indicates — the AFRI community has taken bold steps to advance scientific efforts in agricultural and natural resources to meet those challenges.

In FY 2010:

  1. AFRI received over $2.6 billion in highly rated and fundable projects and supported 403 grant awards at $232 million. The awards ranged from single-investigator-led projects to multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary team projects.  
  2. AFRI saw an unprecedented level of cooperation and partnering across disciplines to increase the impact of the work it supports. 
  3. AFRI continued to increase the level of participation on peer review panels by faculty from minority serving institutions. 
  4. AFRI supported the workforce pipeline by creating jobs for 1,758 students. 

We look forward to continuing our work with you to advance knowledge to make bold contributions to our country’s future.

Chavonda Jacobs-Young
Acting Director
National Institute of Food and Agriculture

NIFA Seeks Assistant Director of the Institute of Youth, Family, and Community

NIFA is seeking to fill the position of Assistant Director of the Institute of Youth, Family, and Community (NIFA:SES:11-03).  This is a Senior Executive Service (SES) position.  The salary ranges from $119,554 to $179,700, commensurate with experience.

As the Assistant Director of the Institute of Youth, Family, and Community, the incumbent is responsible for providing scientific and managerial leadership and direction in formulating and implementing policies and programs that support research, education, and extension programs that ensure positive youth, family, human, educational, and community development. In addition, programs for science-based educational capacity building at all levels are a major focus. The incumbent serves as a principal scientific and management advisor to the Deputy Director for Food and Community Resources in administering, evaluating, planning, directing, and coordinating all activities related to the mission and function of NIFA, in execution of policies and practices of grant management, and in the allocation of resources to carry out these policies and practices. The incumbent is instrumental in elevating the standing of agricultural sciences within the Federal science enterprise and provides scientific, technical, and administrative input to the Director and Deputy Directors of NIFA. More information about NIFA can be found on the NIFA website.

A copy of the job announcement may be located on the Office of Personnel Management web page. As specified in the job announcement, applicants must meet mandatory qualifications and address specific executive core and technical qualifications.

All applications must be received by October 4, 2011. For information about the application process, contact Deborah Crump at 301-504-1448. To learn more about NIFA, contact Betty Lou Gilliland at 202-720-5506.

Research Summit Maps Future of Plant Science

The Plant Science Research Summit, sponsored by the American Society of Plant Biologists, was held Sept. 21-23 with Chavonda Jacobs-Young, Acting Director of NIFA, as a featured speaker.  Attendees engaged in discussions about the future of plant science, identifying critical gaps in our understanding of plant biology that must be filled over the next 10 years in order to address the grand challenges facing the nation.

Hawaii Delegation Visits NIFA

A delegation from Hawaii met with NIFA national program leaders on September 22, to identify key leadership and to get a sense of priorities, initiatives, and funding opportunities that may match with Hawaii’s priorities. Delegates are interested in building relationships that support NIFA’s Alaska and Native Hawaiian Serving Institution programs and services. The Hawaiian delegation included Russell Kokuburn, director of the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture; Sylvia Yuen, dean of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaii-Manoa; Chris Kanazawa, state director of USDA Rural Development; Diane Ley, state executive director of USDA’s Farm Service Agency; Marie Blanco, Sen. Daniel Inouye’s chief of staff; and Jennifer Wooton, legislative assistant. Ralph Otto, NIFA’s Deputy Director for Food and Community Resources, hosted the visit.

FCS Welcomes Two Visiting Scholars

The Division of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) welcomes Roberta Riportella and Brian Higginbotham to NIFA’s FCS Visiting Scholars Program. While at NIFA, Riportella will collaborate with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to develop health educational programs for consumers related to the new Affordable Care Act. Higginbotham will learn about NIFA programs, partnerships, and county-level opportunities to support veteran and military families in rural America.

Riportella is a professor and a health policy specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Wisconsin-Extension. She has served as chair in the Department of Consumer Science, School of Human Ecology at UW-Madison. Her main focus has been on helping the at-risk population (including low income and rural families and older adults) overcome barriers in accessing health care, such as lack of insurance and the disparate availability of health care providers.  She received her Ph.D. in sociology from UW-Madison.

Higginbotham is an associate professor of Family, Consumer, and Human Development at Utah State University and is Utah’s Family-Life extension specialist. He is also a licensed marriage and family therapist, volunteer clergyman, one of the founding members of the National Extension Relationship and Marriage Education Network, and expert council for the National Stepfamily Resource Center. He directs several federal and state-funded projects and provides statewide leadership for Utah’s family-life extension programs.  His research focuses on factors and interventions that enhance remarriage quality and stepfamily functioning.  He also evaluates Utah’s 4-H youth mentoring programs. He received his Ph.D. in human development and family studies from Auburn University.  

Since 2008, the NIFA FCS Visiting Scholars Program has fostered collaboration between NIFA and its land-grant university partners. The program provides an opportunity for FCS faculty and administrators to enhance their professional growth while cultivating their interests at the federal level.  For more information about the Visiting Scholars Program, contact Brent Elrod, acting director, Division of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Williams Appointed NPL in Division of Food Safety

Jodi Williams has been appointed national program leader for Food Safety in the Institute of Food Safety and Nutrition’s Division of Food Safety, where she previously served as the program specialist for Food Safety, Food Science, and Food Technology.

Williams is a food scientist who received her M.S. and Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in food science and technology. She has a B.S. in chemistry from Delaware State University, and was a USDA/1890 National Scholar and Presidential Scholar. Jodi has provided support and technical assistance to competitive grant programs including the National Integrated Food Safety Initiative, the AFRI Food Safety Challenge Area, and AFRI Foundational Programs. She has served on a variety of interagency and intra-agency committees, and recently completed a detail at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service in conjunction with an Executive Leadership Program.  Jodi is an adjunct faculty member at York College in York, PA, where she is an instructor in the chemistry and life sciences department. She has represented NIFA food safety programs at a number of national and international conferences. Jodi is a certified Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) trainer and ServSafe instructor, whose research interests have included the sensory and analytical analysis of sweet cream buttermilk formulations and the evaluation of initial flavor fade in roasted peanuts.

Williams is located in Waterfront Centre, Room 2380.

NIFA Awards $4 Million for Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grants projects

NIFA awarded $4 million for eight research grants to study the agricultural effects of genetic engineering through the Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grants (BRAG) program. In addition to supporting research that assists federal regulatory decision-making, the BRAG program also supports conferences that bring together scientists, regulators, and other stakeholders to review assessment data.  BRAG funding supports research in the following areas: identifying and developing practices to minimize risks associated with genetically engineered organisms; developing methods to monitor the dispersal of genetically engineered organisms; increasing knowledge about the characteristics, rates and methods of gene transfer that may occur between genetically engineered organisms, and related wild and domesticated organisms; and providing analysis which compares impacts of organisms modified through genetic engineering to other types of production systems.

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 (AFRI)

See individual grant program.

See individual grant program.

Water Sustainability and Climate

October 19, 2011

Mary Ann Rozum

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

November 3, 2011

Daniel Schmoldt


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.


Trade Mission to Vietnam Aims to Create American Jobs and Business Opportunities for U.S. Agriculture
WASHINGTON, September 22, 2011 – Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse will lead USDA's first-ever agricultural trade mission to Vietnam in the cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City from Sept. 26 to 29. Vietnam is one of the world's fastest-growing economies and an important market for U.S. agricultural products. Two-way agricultural, fish and forestry trade with Vietnam reached nearly $3.4 billion in 2010.
"U.S. farmers and ranchers are seeing record sales of farm goods abroad and looking forward to some of the best net incomes in decades, thanks to global demand for the American brand," said Scuse. "Since 2006, no other major U.S. agricultural export market has grown as quickly as Vietnam. This is a significant and growing market for U.S. producers and a driver for the American economy, helping to support more than 28,000 jobs here in the United States through exports of American products. USDA trade missions have a successful track record of helping to support U.S. job creation and business opportunities for American food and agricultural companies. Establishing partnerships and creating opportunities for trade is how we will build an economy that continues to grow, innovate and out-compete the rest of the world."
Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.

Statement from Secretary Vilsack on Receipt of Chairman’s Award from the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Funding for more than 500 Projects to Boost Renewable Energy Production, Reduce Energy Costs for Producers and Rural Small Businesses
WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2011 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced loans and grants for more than 500 agricultural producers and rural small businesses across the country to implement renewable energy and energy efficiency measures in their operations.
The grants and loan guarantees are being provided through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), a 2008 Farm Bill initiative. REAP offers funds for farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy-efficiency improvements. These federal funds leverage other funding sources for small businesses. In all, USDA announced today more than $27 million in energy grants and guaranteed loans for projects.
Visit the USDA Newsroom to read the full release.

University of Vermont Program Assists Hurricane Irene Victims

Hurricane Irene provided University of Vermont (UVM) an opportunity to put one of their NIFA-funded grants to the test.  “Building Resilience Through Community-Based Action Research: Identifying Vulnerabilities and Facilitating Change in Rural Mobile Home Parks” is an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative competitive grant.  The program’s objectives include improving hazard preparedness and emergency response in rural mobile home parks that are located in areas that are vulnerable to natural disasters, such as flooding.  NIFA developed the program after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Click here for more information on UVM’s program.

NIFA-Nominated Scientist Wins Presidential Award

Colorado State University researcher Laura Bellows received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) Sept. 26 for her research in childhood obesity prevention, which was funded by NIFA.

Bellows was honored for her outstanding work in understanding how healthy eating habits and physical activity patters established in preschool are maintained over time to reduce childhood obesity.

PECASE nominees are selected for their innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology. Nominees show exceptional potential to shape the future through intellectual and inspired leadership. Educational activities reflect a spirit of community service to help understand the nature and implications of scientific research.


National eXtension Virtual Conference
The 2011 National eXtension Virtual Conference, Oct. 17-19, brings together an outstanding lineup of speakers for More Mind Reach. Anyone working to reach and interact with the public could benefit from this active and reactive virtual conference designed to build your knowledge skill set about the changing world of information today and for the future.  Speakers include: Howard Rheingold, internationally syndicated author of the weekly Tomorrow column, author of best-sellers Virtual Reality and The Virtual Community; Robin Good, an independent new media publisher; Paulette Robinson, a leader in the Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds, government, industry, and academia;  Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (2008) and Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age (2010); and Steven Rosenbaum, the author of Curation Nation.

Following each day's key conference presenters attendees may join in the conversation with an opportunity to gain more insight with the presenter, facilitators, and reactors. Participants will be able to interact via live chat.  All sessions will be recorded for later viewing.

Begin following NeVC2011 on Twitter at #nevc2011. Contact Terry Meisenbach for more information.

What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?

An exhibit called “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? The Government’s Effect on the American Diet” is on display at the National Archives in Washington, DC, until Jan. 3, 2012.  The exhibit traces USDA plant exploration from the late 1800s, the development of Cooperative Extension, food safety inspection, nutrition, and evolution of food groups and food pyramid, 4-H clubs, original movie clips including Dr. Carver and the Jessup wagon, and victory gardens. 

AICAP to Hold Final Conference

NIFA’s Avian Influenza Coordinated Agricultural Project (AICAP) is hosting its 6th and final annual conference on Sept. 30–Oct. 1 in Buffalo, NY, as part of the joint U.S. Animal Health Association / American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians conference. The meeting will summarize 6 years of the AICAP’s research, education, and extension accomplishments for the poultry industry and strategize ways to maintain collaborative, community-wide avian influenza projects without NIFA support as a Coordinated Agricultural Project.  Peter Johnson, national program leader in the Division of Animal Systems, will represent NIFA.


For a plain text copy of this newsletter, please contact Judy Rude. NIFA UPDATE is published biweekly. The next NIFA issue is planned for October 12. Submit news items to: by September 21 to 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.

Chavonda Jacobs-Young, Acting 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: 09/28/2011