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Cooperative Extension & USDA Award Top Honors in Extension Excellence and Diversity

October 22, 2014

Recognizing visionary leadership and diversity in educational programming, Cooperative Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced that Robert Kallenbach from the University of Missouri will receive the 2014 Excellence in Extension Award and Cesar Asuaje from the University of Florida will receive the National Extension Diversity Award.

Both awards will be presented during the 127th APLU Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, November 2-4, 2014.

The Excellence in Extension Award is given annually to one Cooperative Extension professional who excels at programming, provides visionary leadership, and makes a positive impact on constituents served. Five regional awards will also be presented. The National Diversity Award recognizes significant contributions and accomplishments in achieving and sustaining diversity and pluralism. NIFA and Cooperative Extension have sponsored the awards since 1991.

“Programs such as these define what Extension means to Americans all across the country, and their success has helped many producers apply science-based knowledge to their own farms and ranches,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “I applaud all our award recipients for their sustained ability to extend knowledge and change lives.”

“As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Smith-Lever Act, which created Cooperative Extension nationwide, these exemplary educators are to be congratulated,” said Jimmy Henning, dean and director, University of Kentucky, and chair of the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy, the representative leadership and governing body of Cooperative Extension. “Their work of translating research for practical application, engaging learners to take positive action, and transforming lives, businesses, and communities through education provides a shining example of Cooperative Extension’s relevance and impact.”

Kallenbach serves as Professor, Plant Sciences Extension Program Leader, and Forage Specialist where his educational programs help forage-livestock producers optimize pasture management. His efforts have led to more than $100 million in new investments in pasture-based dairy operations in Missouri, which in turn generate $40 million in annual milk sales and support 1,110 new jobs. In addition, Kallenbach’s winter feeding systems program for beef cattle has helped nearly 22,000 producers reduce annual costs by up to 30 percent.

Asuaje is an agricultural extension agent in West Palm Beach, Florida. Knowing his audience is a hallmark of his success at improving underprivileged, non-English speaking, and low reading-level Hispanic farmworkers’ safety. In his combined 29 years of Extension experience in Venezuela and South Florida, he has developed, delivered, and evaluated educational opportunities aimed to protect agricultural workers from chemical toxicity, physical injury, and death. Using highly visual, bilingual teaching techniques, Asuaje successfully helped 422 farmworkers complete pesticide certification, increasing hourly wages by $1.56 for those passing the test. Efforts in South Florida are extended to the Dominican Republic where he advised Extension agents on program development and evaluation.

The 2014 Regional Excellence in Extension recipients include: 

  • 1890 Institutions Region: Henry English, Director, Small Farm Program, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, for providing education and technical assistance to socially disadvantaged, small and limited resource producers in 22 counties in eastern and southwest Arkansas.
  • North Central Region: Rick Funston, Professor and Beef Cattle Reproduction Specialist, West Central Research and Extension Center, University of Nebraska, for introducing new beef and heifer management systems to ranchers resulting in new market options and reduced feed costs.
  • Northeast Region: Richard W. VanVrankey, Professor and Extension Agent, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Atlantic County, for the innovative creation of the Ethnic Produce Production and Marketing Working Group which introduces niche markets to producers for unique crops catering to immigrant consumers looking for fresh vegetables and herbs of their homelands.
  • Southern Region: John S. Jacob, Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Texas Sea Grant, for developing the Texas Coastal Watershed Program known for expanding beyond landscaping into coastal and urban resiliency, such as the City of Houston’s development of urban corridor planning standards.
  • Western Region: Madeleine Sigman-Grant, Professor and Extension Specialist, University of Nevada, for creating educational opportunities about the physiology and psychology of breastfeeding for medical and nursing students, practicing nurses and physicians, and pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. For more information, visit www.nifa.usda.gov.

Cooperative Extension (Extension) translates science for practical applications; engages with the public by providing reliable information leading to positive action; and transforms individuals, families, communities and businesses in rural and urban areas. Extension operates through the nationwide land-grant university system and is a partnership among the federal government (through NIFA) and state and local governments. At the national level, Extension is coordinated by the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP), which is the representative leadership and governing body of Extension nationwide and works in partnership with the APLU Commission on Food, Environment and Natural Resources.

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