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Obama names Ramaswamy new director of NIFA

Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy
Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy
President Barack Obama announced today his intent to appoint Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy as director of the Agriculture Department’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The position, established in the 2008 farm bill, is a six-year presidential appointment but does not require Senate confirmation.

Ramaswamy has served as the dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University since 2009 and also serves as director of the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station. He will succeed Roger Beachy, who resigned from the post last year.

Previously, Ramaswamy was the associate dean of Purdue’s College of Agriculture and directed the university's agricultural research programs from 2006 to 2009. He was head of the Entomology Deprtment at Kansas State University from 1997 to 2006, where he held the title of distinguished professor.

He also served on the faculty of Mississippi State University, was a research associate at Michigan State University, and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Entomological Society of America.

Ramaswamy earned bachelor of science and master of science degrees in entomology from the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore, India, and earned his doctoral degree in entomology from Rutgers University.

NIFA is part of USDA's Research, Education and Economics Mission Area, which includes the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Economic Research Service (ERS), the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), as well as the National Agriculture Library and National Arboretum.

NIFA’s budget for fiscal year 2012 is $1.36 billion, and it makes grants to land grant colleges and other institutions for agricultural research. Congress has cut the agricultural research budget in recent years, but administration officials and agriculture leaders have called for an increased research budget in the next farm bill.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement that Ramaswamy is “a man with a distinguished career as a scientist, professor and leader within higher education, and someone who will surely help to position NIFA as a modern and efficient service organization that is closely in tune with the long-term vitality of the food and agricultural sciences.”