NIFA Recognizes Outstanding Contributions on Annual Day of Appreciation

 WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced NIFA Partnership Award recipients and Hall of Fame inductees, honoring those whose exemplary work has helped the agency fulfill its mission of investing in and advancing agricultural research, education, and extension. 
“We place high value on the teams of researchers and other individuals who have enacted positive change on the future of agriculture and science through their work,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA Director. “They, and dedicated NIFA employees, have made contributions to this agency and its mission that will have long-standing impacts on the work we do to help address our nation’s most pressing challenges.”
Three categories of the 2015 NIFA Partnership Awards were presented to the lead institution of grantee projects that have created outstanding impacts:
  • Mission Integration of Research, Education, and Extension, awarding teams that work across all three of NIFA’s mission areas to produce positive outcomes in agriculture, the environment, communities, or people.
The Useful to Usable Team from Purdue University improved the usability of climate information to guide agricultural production in the Midwestern United States Corn Belt. This team of biophysical and social scientists produced climate-based decision support tools to assist cereal crop farmers and agricultural advisors throughout their purchasing, marketing, and activity planning. These tools are free and publicly available at
  • Multistate Efforts, granted to awardees whose projects are responding to critical needs important to each project leader’s state.
The Stronger Economies Together (SET) Initiative, a project run cooperatively between USDA Rural Development and Mississippi State University, aims to help rural counties overcome the economic challenges that they face. SET guides collaborations within multi-county regions, helping them to develop regional economic plans based on self-assessments of strengths and assets. Over 1,500 organizations across 54 regions in 30 states are currently engaged in plans to address needs and strengthen assets such as rural healthcare, agritourism, and entrepreneurism.
  • Innovative Programs and Projects, awarding teams that use a unique combination of resources and disciplines to enact positive outcomes in response to important regional or national issues.
The Bayou Recyclers program from Southern University and A&M College works to convert trash to treasure using aquaculture waste (AW), such as shellfish parts, and burnt corn gluten meal, a corn byproduct intended for use as fertilizer, but inadvertently burnt during transport. The team has developed ways of turning what has been a major Louisiana waste problem into low cost feed and fertilizer, for example, by solar drying AW and developing methods for increasing its crude protein content.
Additionally, four individuals were inducted into the NIFA Hall of Fame to recognize their contributions to the agency’s mission:
  • Dr. Meryl Broussard, NIFA Associate Director for Programs, was honored for his character and commitment to excellence in upholding NIFA’s mission throughout his more than 30 years of service at the agency and its predecessors. Dr. Broussard provided agency-wide leadership throughout the planning and establishment of NIFA as mandated under the 2008 Farm Bill and served as the agency’s first full-time National Program Leader in aquaculture, launching many of the first research and extension aquaculture programs.
  • Mr. Delbert Foster, South Carolina State University Executive Director of 1890 Research and Extension, was recognized for his leadership and contributions to land-grant universities. He has served as a liaison between 1890 land-grant university programs at SC State and NIFA, Clemson University, and the Budget and Control Board of South Carolina. Additionally, Mr. Foster is a member of the 4-H National Board of Directors and chairs the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy of the Association of Public Land-grant Universities (APLU).
  • Dr. Ralph Otto, former NIFA Deputy Director for Food and Community Resources, was honored for his 37 years of federal service, 24 of which were with NIFA and its predecessor agencies. Before joining the Extension Service in 1990, Dr. Otto worked in the USDA’s Office of International Cooperation and Development as a program leader for the Technical Assistance Division – Asia and Middle East – and as director of the International Training Division.
  • Dr. Steven Slack, Ohio State University (OSU) Associate Vice President for Agricultural Administration and Director of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, was recognized for advancing agricultural research and extension throughout his more than 40 years of faculty and administrative service. Prior to serving as an administrator at OSU, Dr. Slack was an accomplished plant pathologist at the University of Wisconsin and Cornell University. He has also provided leadership to several boards of the APLU, is a fellow and past president of the American Phytopathological Society, and is a fellow elected into the American Academy for the Advancement of Science.
NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural science, visit or follow us on Twitter @usda_nifa, #NIFAimpacts.

Media Inquiries

202-720-4651 NIFA Communications Staff checks this email box twice daily.