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Roger Beachy Goes to Washington

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ST. LOUIS, MO, September 24, 2009 – Dr. Roger N. Beachy, the founding President of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, MO, has been appointed the first Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) by President Barack Obama. Beachy will join the agency on October 5, 2009.

According to the formal agreement, Beachy will be “on loan” to NIFA from the Danforth Plant Science Center. On assuming the new position, he will transition to his new role of Vice Chairman of the Center’s Board of Trustees, a move that was originally scheduled to occur next year.

“This exciting new agency is critical to growing our agriculture economy and ensures that innovation in plant science and agriculture research will flourish. I have been a strong proponent of the NIFA as have the scientists at the Danforth Plant Science Center, and of course our Chairman, Dr. Danforth. I am honored to have been selected for this position by the President and am committed to sharing my knowledge and experiences to help shape research and its applications that will impact agriculture and food in the U.S. and in developing economies,” Beachy said.

The mission of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is to stimulate and fund the research and technological innovations that will enhance and make American agriculture more productive and environmentally sustainable while ensuring the economic viability of agriculture and production. The Institute was developed as a result of a task force chaired by William H. Danforth and appointed by then Secretary of Agriculture, Ann M. Veneman. The Danforth Task Force recommended that Congress authorize the creation of NIFA as a way to strengthen agriculture research and to attract additional highly competitive research scientists to this field of endeavor. A growing program in competitive research grants will be a hallmark of the new agency.

“I am thrilled and sad at the same time.” said William H. Danforth, chair Danforth Plant Science Center Board of Trustees. “Working closely with Roger Beachy has been one of the privileges of my life; he has lead and orchestrated the success of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. I hate to see him less active in St. Louis even for a little while. On the other hand I believe strongly in the NIFA. No one in the world would be a better founding director. Our board saw the situation the same way.”

In May the Danforth Center’s Board of Directors approved a succession plan that would ensure continuity of the organization as it moves into its second decade. Under this scenario Beachy was to transition from Center President to Vice Chairman of the board. That transition will now occur more rapidly. A search committee, headed by Dr. P. Roy Vagelos, has already begun an international search for Beachy’s successor with a target date for implementation in July 2010. Until the new president is identified and on board, Philip Needleman, Ph.D, member of the Center’s Board of Trustees will serve as Interim President.