Tag Archives: united states department of agriculture

MSU Extension and Michigan Fitness Foundation to provide expertise in nutrition education and obesity prevention in partnership with USDA

As part of a competitive grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Purdue University is establishing one of four regional centers for research into nutrition education and obesity prevention in a nationwide USDA project. As part of this project, Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan Fitness Foundation will collaborate with Purdue University and the University of Missouri to enhance nutrition education and obesity prevention efforts in the Midwest.

Our very own Dawn Contreras, director of MSU Extension’s Health and Nutrition Institute, and Marci Scott, vice president of health programming at the Michigan Fitness Foundation, will serve as associate directors of the North Central Nutrition Education Center of Excellence, which will be housed at Purdue University.

Being part of this project isn’t just a great honor; it will also be a big strategic opportunity for MSU Extension’s Health and Nutrition Institute.

According to Dawn, “Nutrition education and obesity prevention are important issues for our state and the nation. The use of strategic connections is a key strategy for dealing with these issues. The new regional center of excellence will help us link faculty, nutrition educators and implementers, and partners in a way that facilitates increased knowledge and implementation of best practices for addressing the obesity epidemic. It is an exciting new endeavor for Michigan and our surrounding states.”

Great work from Dawn and our Health and Nutrition Institute!

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Filed under grants, health

MSU Extension educator takes part in White House round table discussion

At first, Leatta Byrd thought the email invitation with the White House seal on it from the United States Department of Agriculture was a joke. It took the Michigan State University Extension educator a couple of days and some phone calls to realize that the invitation inviting her to a White House Community round table discussion June 20 at the Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes Emergency Food Pantry in Kalamazoo was authentic.

The discussion featured Kevin Concannon USDA undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services. Mr. Concannon oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and has principal responsibilities and funding authority for Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Alan Shannon, director of the USDA FNS Midwest Regional Public Affairs Office also contributed.

Leatta, supervising SNAP-Ed educator in District 13, joined in the closed 90-minute discussion with about 25 other invitees who work to provide nutritional services to populations in need. Discussion touched on the challenges and successes of reaching people who are underserved, seniors, people recently unemployed and the Hispanic community.

It wasn’t a one-sided conversation. The undersecretary listened to input from attendees on, among other things, how SNAP services could be improved.

Mr. Concannon noted that nationally 63 million people receive SNAP benefits and one-half of those are children.

With public schools not in session during the summer and the economy struggling “child hunger spikes up in the summer time,” said Mr. Shannon.

Leatta Byrd & USDA Undersecretary Kevin Concannon

Leatta Byrd, MSU Extension educator, (left) and Kevin Concannon, USDA under secretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, at the White House Community Round Table Discussion June 20, 2012, at Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Leatta said, “Most people know that during the school year, children who attend free-breakfast and reduced-lunch schools can receive a free breakfast and lunch but during the summer, many children go hungry because they may be unaware of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) feeding programs. That’s why it’s so important that we promote the SFSP summer lunch program so low-income children can have an opportunity to have a nutritious lunch during the summer.”

Through MSU Extension and the SNAP-Ed program, Leatta provides education in several sites, teaching children about healthy snacks and making good food choices this summer. Kalamazoo County has a strong SFSP summer feeding program sponsored by the USDA. It’s given her an opportunity to go out and work with children this summer, providing nutrition education to the children who attend these summer feeding sites.

Leatta says that not only is it important to outreach and market the SNAP-Ed to eligible families, but we also need to promote nutrition to seniors who sometimes have to make the choice between buying their medication or buying food. In addition, newly unemployed or underemployed people often don’t know how to access SNAP benefits. Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (FMNP) such as WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and Senior Project Fresh Programs are another great way of marketing SNAP-Ed programming to underserved audiences.

MSU Extension, the Health and Nutrition Institute and SNAP-Ed are addressing and providing outreach and services to those specific populations that Mr. Concannon spoke about in the round table discussion.

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Filed under Nutrition

Michigan AgrAbility session takes place at Ag Expo

Kelly Ewalt, Michigan State University Extension AgrAbility educator, will present a session at Ag Expo this year, explaining the program, “Michigan AgrAbility – What is it?” at 2:30 p.m. on July 19 and 20 and at 9:30 a.m. on July 21 in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) tent.

 AgrAbility is a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant-funded partnership of MSUE, Easter Seals Michigan, United Cerebral Palsy of Michigan and Michigan Farm Bureau, as well as Michigan Rehabilitation Services. Michigan AgrAbility helps people with disabilities who are employed in agriculture to continue to farm and to live independently.

 Clients’ needs can vary widely. For example, through AgrAbility, clients with amputations might have additional steps put on their tractors. They might install drive-through gates so they don’t have to mount and dismount their tractors when entering pastures, and they may put in squeeze chutes to help control their animals. A client who doesn’t have the strength to push the brake or clutch petals down might receive advice on putting hand controls on tractors. One may need specially designed stairs to safely access the cab of a skid steer over the bucket.

 AgrAbility staff members will make an on-site farm assessment, locate the equipment, help with installation and assist the farmer with learning to use it.

 At Ag Expo, Kelly will demonstrate some common equipment modifications and discuss the services that AgrAbility offers.

 Visit the Michigan AgrAbility website to find out more about the program: www.michiganagrability.org

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Behind-the-scenes work critical to MSUE’s future

March is known for Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Week, changing weather, first day of spring, paczki, spring break, mud and wrapping up the winter meeting schedule. But in the world of Bruce Haas, planning and reporting specialist, March is federal report month. Each year, on the last day of March (today), Bruce, together with Val Osowski, MSU AgBioResearch communications manager, submits the joint accomplishment report for Michigan State University Extension and MSU AgBioResearch to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), our federal partner, indicating the impact of our $8 million federal investment in Smith-Lever funds and $5.5 million in Hatch funds. And, each year, behind the scenes, Bruce reads through the Extension Information System (EIS) reports, gathers impact information related to the reporting categories, and works with the business office to document salaries and programs on federal dollars to bring the MSUE content to the report.

In addition, March is an important month for me in meeting with legislators and testifying at Michigan House and Senate hearings that often demand 24-hour response reports related to specific legislative requests. Bruce frequently comes up with details I didn’t realize we had to help address those requests. For the most part, his work goes unseen and unheralded – yet it is critical to helping us live up to our goal of being more accountable to decision makers at all levels.

 This spring, in addition to preparing the federal reports and helping to address state requests for details, Bruce has been leading our efforts to move into a new online system, the Michigan Planning and Reporting System (MI PRS). Over the last year, Bruce has worked with Deb Mault, ANR Technology Services information technologist, and the team of folks in the New England Planning and Reporting Consortium from whom we purchased the software to create a system that works for Michigan. Over the past two months, Bruce has traveled around the state and conducted 19 hands-on training sessions for 283 participants. No one looks forward to April Fool’s day more than Bruce! Please join me in thanking Bruce for his valuable contributions, transparent to many in the organization, yet critical to ensuring our future!

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Distinguished service awards presented at ANR luncheon

Michigan State University (MSU) College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) honored Charlotte Louise Wenham and John Amos with distinguished service awards at the annual Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Week luncheon held March 8 at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center.

Charlotte Louise Wenham is an MSU alumna, having earned a bachelor’s degree in speech and a master’s in English. She also earned a doctorate in education administration from Western Michigan University. She has served as teacher, middle school principal, curriculum director and assistant superintendent in the St. Joseph Public Schools. She currently is a partner in Wood, Wenham & Henderson, through which she acts as a consultant, working with Michigan school districts, small businesses and non-profits.

Charlotte served as president of the Benton Harbor/St. Joseph Rotary Club, a member of the Berrien County MSU Extension Council and a member of the Michigan State Extension and Experiment Station Council, representing Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties, along with the Southwest Research and Extension Center, the Kellogg Biological Station and the Kellogg Experimental Forest.

In the last six years, she has volunteered as a citizen advocate for MSUE, AgBioResearch and the CANR as a Michigan delegate to the Council for Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching (CARET), which meets annually in Washington D.C. to learn about national impacts of Cooperative Extension programs and research from land-grant universities and how federal policies and funding affect the land-grant systems. She is a very effective advocate for our programs and can cite a number of programs and impacts that have made a difference in Michigan. She also contacts congressional offices at other times of the year to discuss the importance of MSUE and AgBioResearch programs and issues ranging from annual United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) budget bills to farm program legislation and special grant appropriations requests.

Charlotte has received the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Benton Harbor/St. Joseph Rotary Club; both state and local Outstanding Leader citations from the Delta Kappa Gamma Society, a professional society for women in education; an Above and Beyond Award from the rotary club and the Volunteer of the Year Award from Planned Parenthood of Mid-Michigan. Thanks, Char for all you do to support our work!

John Amos is owner of Amos Farms, a fruit-growing operation in the Williamsburg/Elk Rapids area. He and his family assisted the research of MSU Extension and the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station (now MSU AgBioResearch), by supplying trees, application equipment and crews to collect harvest data for a six-year study of the chemical, ethephon. John went so far as to adjust his harvesting program to accommodate the researchers’ needs. Data collected from the research were the basis for ethephon’s eventual commercial use. John continuously offers his farm for studies and contributes to MSU’s research programs.

He and his wife, Pat, have hosted numerous foreign students, having them gain experience interning on their farm.

 For 20 years, he has volunteered for the Weather Service Cooperative Program, recording temperature and rainfall measurements. This valuable work allows growers to make educated decisions regarding applying sprays, irrigating and other tasks. The information he collected was recently incorporated into the MSU Agricultural Weather Network. He received the Outstanding Service Award from the Department of Commerce and National Weather Service Program.

John is a long-term active member of the MSU Horticulture Society, a member of the Whitewater Township Board and chair for the Elk Rapids Fire Department. Thanks, John, for helping to support our research and Extension programs and for opening your farm to our scientists and educators!

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MSUE educators key in identifying invasive pest

Recently, Michigan received the bad news that another invasive pest has arrived in our state – the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB). The unwelcome guest feeds on fruits, vegetables, corn, soybeans and much more. It is difficult to control with insecticides and is a smelly nuisance that clusters on and in homes when the weather turns cold.

 Michigan State University Extension staff members as well as employees of the Michigan Department of Agriculture, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and other agencies are vigilant about identifying and mitigating the effects of any new pests that enter our borders.

 An MSU student collected the first specimen in Berrien County for a class project. It was his instructor in the course, MSUE educator Duke Elsner, who identified the bug as one of concern. Dr. Elsner submitted it to the USDA for further verification. A resident in Eaton County brought the second specimen to his local Extension office to MSUE educator George Silva, who sent it to MSU Diagnostic Services. There, entomologist Howard Russell identified it as a brown marmorated stink bug and forwarded it to APHIS for confirmation.

 MSU entomology specialists are gathering information and writing research proposals to address the issues this new pest will create.

 If you are curious about this pest, learn more from this fact sheet developed by entomologist Chris DiFonzo along with Howard Russell.


Filed under Entomology

Anyone for chestnuts?

Whether you roast them on an open fire or grind them up to make a distinctive beer, chestnuts are highly prized and hard to find. The American chestnut was one of the most common and economically important tree species in the forests of eastern North America up until the early 20th Century. Its demise is attributable to the introduction of a fungal disease, the chestnut blight, caused by Cryphonectria parasitica. Over the past 30 years, a team of scientists from 16 U.S. universities, the U.S. Forest Service, the American Chestnut Foundation and the Ontario Horticultural Research Institute has been collaborating to develop varieties of American chestnut that are resistant to the disease and new management practices to reduce impacts of the disease on stands of chestnut trees, and to better understand how a virus that infects the fungus can be used to protect chestnut stands. The team members’ integrative and collaborative approach earned them the Excellence in Multi-state Research Award from the United States Department of Agriculture recently at the annual conference of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). Michigan State University has been involved in the project from the outset and has provided leadership for the group in the work of Dr. Dennis Fulbright, professor of plant pathology. The official name of the group is NE-1033, Biological Improvement of Chestnut Through Technologies that Address Management of the Species, its Pathogens and Pests. Congratulations to Dennis and the team for their recognition, and thanks for working to ensure that one day these majestic trees will be restored as the “Redwoods of the East” in Michigan and other eastern forests.

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