Roger N. Beachy has been appointed the first director of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) by President Barack Obama. Beachy, the founding President of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, MO., will join the new agency on Oct. 5.
NIFA was established as an agency of the USDA in the 2008 Farm Bill to spearhead agricultural research. The new agency will have a proposed budget of $1.3 billion and 300 employees.
Congress is currently debating the amount of research funding the agency will distribute through competitive grants, but a proposed figure hovers at $250 million. The USDA in recent years has distributed between $120 million and $180 million in competitive research grants.
Development of NIFA has been a major legislative priority of such groups as the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities for several years. The Association’s president, Peter McPherson, and vice president, Ian Maw hailed the selection of Beachy as a step in the right direction. They issued the following joint statement in a press release.
“The appointment of Roger Beachy as the founding director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture is an excellent choice to lead USDA’s new premier science agency. As an eminent scientist and director of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Dr. Beachy’s experience will be an important major asset during the NIFA’s formative years. The higher education research community looks forward to working with Dr. Beachy and his staff to address the many challenges facing agriculture and related sciences.”