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ARS Employees Receive USDA, Presidential Awards

By Marcia Wood
June 13, 2003

WASHINGTON, June 13--Agricultural Research Service employees whose accomplishments include helping protect the environment, boosting rural job opportunities, and ensuring the safety of the food supply will be among those honored this afternoon at the 57th Annual Secretary's Honor Awards Ceremony. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman will present the awards at the event, scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. in the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center in Washington, D.C.

"The Honor Awards highlight the dedication and talents of USDA employees who contribute in so many ways to improving the world around us," said Veneman. "Each of these honorees is to be commended for their accomplishments in public service."


Caird Rexroad

Patrick Jordan

In addition to the USDA honor awards, it was also announced that three top-level ARS administrators--Caird E. Rexroad Jr., Allen R. Dedrick, and John Patrick Jordan--have won Presidential Rank Awards. The Presidential Rank Awards recognize and reward career executives for three years or more of outstanding accomplishments at the senior executive level. The ARS winners and their specific Presidential Rank Awards are:

  • Distinguished Executive--Allen R. Dedrick, ARS associate deputy administrator, Natural Resources and Sustainable Agricultural Systems, Beltsville, Md., for leadership in advancing national agricultural research programs related to natural resources and sustainable production systems;
  • Meritorious Executive--Caird E. Rexroad, Jr., ARS acting associate administrator, Washington, D.C., for leadership in the development and application of genomics research to improve human nutrition, food safety, and livestock health and production; and
  • Meritorious Executive--John Patrick Jordan, director, ARS Southern Regional Research Center, New Orleans, La., for career-long motivation of federal and academic cooperation in agricultural research and extension across the nation, and for leadership of the ARS Southern Regional Research Center.

In two of six major USDA Secretary's Honor Awards categories, ARS scientists achieved the highest honor, the "Plow Awards." Here are highlights:

Katherine O'Rourke
More about O'Rourke's research.

For "Expanding Economic and Trade Opportunities for U.S. Agricultural Producers":

  • Plow Award: Katherine I. O' Rourke, research microbiologist, ARS Animal Diseases Research Unit, Pullman, Wash. Her outstanding leadership of research has helped establish the U.S. scrapie control program and yielded new diagnostics for study and control of chronic wasting disease and bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Husein Ajwa (right) inspects strawberries from a test plot.
More about methyl bromide research.

  • Honor Award: Thomas J. Trout, agricultural engineer, and research plant pathologist Sally M. Schneider, both of the ARS San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center, Parlier, Calif., and former ARS soil scientist Husein Ajwa. The researchers developed alternatives to methyl bromide fumigant, a widely used farm chemical that--to protect Earth's ozone layer--is being phased out in the United States and elsewhere.

Microwave radiometers mounted on this boom truck can quickly measure soil moisture.
More about Jackson's research.

Andrew Sharpley
More about Sharpley's research.

For "Maintaining and Enhancing the Nation's Natural Resources and Environment":

  • Plow Award: Thomas J. Jackson, research hydrologist, ARS Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, Md. Jackson's outstanding leadership has resulted in improved global satellite monitoring of conditions critical to farming and climate health.
  • Soil scientist Andrew N. Sharpley, ARS Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit, University Park, Pa., and colleagues. These experts produced a phosphorus-indexing system that helps prevent this nutrient from becoming a pollutant.

A hand-held personal digital assistant.
More about Holden's research.

More about Luchansky's research.

Other Honor Award winners from ARS, and the categories in which their accomplishments are being recognized, include:

For "Promoting Health by Providing Access to Safe, Affordable and Nutritious Food":

  • Nutritionist Joanne M. Holden, ARS Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, and colleagues. Holden and collaborators have made the USDA's food composition data easier to search on the World Wide Web and newly available for downloading onto personal computers and PDAs (personal digital assistants).
  • Food technologist John B. Luchansky, ARS Eastern Regional Research Center, Wyndmoor, Pa., and team members. This team's study of hot dogs has ensured that this American favorite will remain safe to eat.

Tara McHugh
More about McHugh's research.

For "Enhancing the Capacity of All Rural Residents, Communities and Businesses to Prosper":

  • Food technologist Tara H. McHugh, ARS Western Regional Research Center, Albany, Calif., and former ARS agricultural engineer Charles C. Huxsoll. McHugh and Huxsoll's technologies yielded tasty, healthful new food products as well as new job prospects for rural workers who would produce these items.


For "Operating an Efficient, Effective and Discrimination-Free Organization":

  • ARS Mid-South Area director Edgar G. King, Stoneville, Miss., and members of the Mid-South Area Workforce Diversity Committee. The committee helps foster employee creativity, leadership skills, and personal and professional successes.
  • Program coordinator Mary Ann N. Jarvis, ARS U.S. National Arboretum, Washington, D.C. Jarvis' volunteer program coordinates the efforts of hundreds of volunteers who donate thousands of hours each year to help with gardening, laboratory studies and other work at the arboretum.

ARS employees who were winners of nominations from outside of their agency will also be acknowledged at today's celebration. They include:

Glassy-winged sharpshooter on a grape leaf.
More about research on the sharpshooter insect.

  • Kevin J. Hackett, ARS national program leader for biological control, and colleagues, for participating in a multi-agency effort to develop, and put into action, strategies to control the glassy-winged sharpshooter, a destructive insect.
  • Steven M. Helmrich, director, Financial Management Division, Beltsville, Md., for his work as member of a USDA team that improved the Department's accounting and financial management procedures;
  • William A. Duggan, human resources specialist, Human Resources Division, Washington, D.C., for his participation in a team that successfully implemented the USDA Human Capital Plan.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.