NIFA Update, Oct. 11, 2017

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The NIFA Update is a weekly compendium of news and information that may be of interest to Land-Grant and non-Land-Grant Universities, NIFA stakeholders, and other subscribers..

Oct. 18, 2017

Making a Difference

NIFA Honors Land-Grant Partners and Hall of Fame Inductees

NIFA honored several Land-Grant University partners during its annual Day of Appreciation ceremony. Those honored were recognized for supporting NIFA's mission to advance agricultural research, education, and extension to solve significant societal challenges.

The 2017 NIFA Partnership Awards were presented in three different categories to institutions whose work with NIFA support has resulted in exceptional impacts.


The Multistate Efforts award recognizes partnership projects that respond to critical needs important to each project leader’s state. Field corn (Zea mays) is one of the world’s most important cereal grains, and 40 percent of global supply is produced in the United States. Heat stress during the growing season can reduce field corn yield, which may lead to higher prices and food shortages. The Corn Heat Stress Adaptation Team, led by the University of Florida, developed multiple corn lines that produced greater yields under high-temperature conditions. 

STEC University of Nebraska

The Mission Integration of Research, Education, and Extension award honors  teams of individuals who work across all three of NIFA’s mission areas to produce positive outcomes in agriculture, the environment, communities, or people. Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) cause illness in both humans and cattle, and STEC-related illness and death cost the United States more than $400 million each year. The STEC CAP grant executive management team at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln led a team from 18 institutions to develop integrated approaches to prevent STEC contamination and outbreaks throughout the beef production and processing chain.

North Carolina

The Innovative Programs and Projects award acknowledges a project that uses a unique combination of resources and disciplines to enact positive outcomes in response to important regional or national issues. There are approximately 20 million cases of norovirus in the United States each year that result in up to 800 deaths. North Carolina State University leads the NoroCORE Food Virology Collaborative, a group of researchers and stakeholders in basic, food, and environmental virology working to reduce the burden of foodborne disease associated with viruses, particularly noroviruses. In a major breakthrough, the team successfully cultured the human norovirus in intestinal cells, which may lead to new vaccines and treatments.

NIFA Hall of Fame Inductees

The agency also inducted four individuals into NIFA’s Hall of Fame, established in 2011 to recognize exceptional contributions to NIFA’s mission at the local, regional, national, or international level and have made a positive impact on humans.

Michael Dubois

Michel Desbois served as deputy director of NIFA’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) and chief information officer and was responsible for all information technology (IT) resources and applications for the agency. He provided strategic leadership and direction in overall IT, including anticipating future needs and requirements to help NIFA meet its goals and objectives.

Dr. John Phillips is executive director of First Americans Land Grant Consortium (FALCON) and the land-grant director at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). Dr. Phillips also served as the first liaison between 1994 land-grant institutions and the USDA. He has been instrumental in representing the interests of the 1994 land-grant institutions and contributing to the social and economic well-being of their communities. 


Dr. Catherine Woteki served as USDA undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics and chief scientist where she provided leadership responsibility for advancing scientific knowledge through research, extension, and education and elevated the stature of agricultural science. Woteki also served as the USDA’s first undersecretary for Food Safety. An active member of the National Academy of Medicine, she returned as a professor to Iowa State University’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, where she previously served as dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of the Agriculture Experiment Station. 

Michael Young retired this year as the USDA budget officer and director of the Office of Budget and Program Analysis (OBPA). He also served as chief of the Budget Control and Analysis Division of OBPA. Prior to his leadership roles, he was a program analyst for USDA Research, Education and Extension programs and a budget analyst for the Food and Nutrition Service. During his tenure with OBPA, Mr. Young facilitated the advancement of USDA research and the NIFA mission as evidenced by his conscientious review and management of NIFA's program budgets. 


Want to hear from you

Don’t forget to RSVP tomorrow for NIFA Listens: Atlanta, Georgia

To those of you joining us tomorrow in Kansas at our first listening session, we are excited to see you! If you cannot make it out tomorrow, there are still three more opportunities you can sign up for. We really want to hear from you about priorities and opportunities in agricultural! That is why we are hosting in-person listening sessions in different regions across the country and accepting submission of written comments—Two ways to share your thoughts and ideas.

Our next listening session is in Atlanta, Georgia. Details are below, but please remember to RSVP by tomorrow’s deadline if you are wishing to attend the in-person session. You must complete your RSVP via the input form.

Session Locations and Dates:

  • Overland Park, Kansas (Oct. 19) at Marriott Kansas City Overland Park
  • Atlanta, Georgia (Oct. 26) at Atlanta Marriott Marquis
  • Sacramento, California (Nov. 2) at Westin Sacramento
  • Greenbelt, Maryland (Nov. 8) at Greenbelt Marriott

RSVP Deadlines:

  • Atlanta, Georgia (Oct. 19) at Atlanta Marriott Marquis
  • Sacramento, California  (Oct. 26) Westin Sacramento
  • Greenbelt, Maryland (Nov. 1) Greenbelt Marriott

Regardless of attendance at in-person events, submissions of written comments will be accepted via the input form through Friday, Dec. 1, 2017.

Visit NIFA website for more information.

Sonny interview

Farm Disaster Preparedness Starts with USDA Research

By Sarah Mock

Farm communities across the country are reeling from the effects of hurricanes, droughts, and fires, but preparation for these events begin long before they occur, as part of USDA Funded Research. Watch the interview with Sonny Ramaswamy on RFD-TV. 

News for You


Fact Sheet: USDA Assistance Programs – Disaster

USDA’s authority to provide emergency assistance for its various disaster relief programs exists under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act), Agriculture Secretary disaster designations, Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, as well as other authorizing legislation. These authorities are identified in the various USDA program descriptions. 

The USDA programs identified in this fact sheet helps individuals and small businesses to find resources that can help them after a disaster. The fact sheet covers  nutrition assistance, crop losses, loans, livestock losses, risk management,  housing assistance and more. Read the full fact sheet.

Live and Work Overseas Representing U.S. Agriculture as a Foreign Service Officer

Are you interested in representing U.S. agriculture and experiencing a new culture, language, and country every few years? If so, apply to join USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) as a Foreign Service Officer (FSO). FAS is a small agency with a global mission and presence. FAS Officers work every day on trade policy, trade promotion, and trade capacity building to maintain and expand opportunities for U.S. agriculture around the world. If you are interested in a Foreign Service career at FAS, there is plenty of opportunity, but entry is a competitive process. The next opportunity to apply to take the Foreign Service Assessment will open Nov. 6-22, 2017, through To learn more about the FAS Foreign Service as a career and lifestyle, as well as the requirements and skills of successful candidates, visit the FAS website and join them Nov. 14 from 1-2:30 p.m. for a public information session at Patriot’s Plaza III, 355 E. Street, SW Washington, DC in Auditorium B on the first floor. For those not in the Washington, DC area, virtual access information is available at:, Meeting number: 1-888-844-9904, Code: 3206162. 

Grants & RFA Announcements

USDA Helps Small Businesses Develop New Agricultural Products, Technology 

NIFA announced grants to help bring agricultural business ideas from the drawing board to the marketplace. Funding is made through NIFA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program. 

In FY17, the SBIR program supported 114 Phase I and II grants totaling more than $24 million. Among the Phase I projects, Arcadia Biosciences of Seattle, Washington, will develop new wheat varieties at their Phoenix, Arizona, facilities to help increase consumer acceptance of whole grain wheat by improving the shelf life and flavor of whole grain flour. A Phase II project by Jun Innovations of Honolulu, Hawaii will take the proprietary super-cooling technology it developed in Phase I and develop commercially viable units for demonstration and licensing with potential partners such as major home appliance manufacturers. More information on these projects are available on the NIFA website.