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UF/IFAS Faculty Receive Three Top USDA Awards For Research And Education Programs

Chuck Woods (352) 392-1773 x 281

Linda Cook (352) 392-209
Wayne Sherman (352) 392-4711 ext. 306
John Van Sickle (352) 392-1826 ext. 221

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Three faculty members from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences will receive 1998 Honor Awards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture during ceremonies in Washington, D.C., today (6-10-98).

The Honor Awards, the federal agency’s highest recognition for outstanding contributions to agriculture and the consumer, will be presented to UF/IFAS faculty By U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman and broadcast live via satellite at l p.m.

Those being honored are Linda Cook, associate professor in the family, youth and community sciences department; Wayne Sherman, professor in the horticultural sciences department and John Van Sickle, professor in the food and resource economics department.

Cook, who coordinates the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) in Florida, will be honored for her work on a 24-member committee that planned the Nutrition Education for Diverse Audiences Conference held in Houston in 1997.

For the first time, the conference brought together staff from major nutrition programs conducted By USDA in partnership with the Cooperative Extension Service at the UF and other land-grant universities across the nation.

These nutrition education efforts, directed primarily to limited resource citizens, include the Extension Service’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition initiative, the Food Stamp Family Nutrition Program and EFNEP.

Cook said members of the conference planning committee were selected for their diverse backgrounds. They represented different ethnicities, races, genders and ages from various regions of the nation. A total of 267 educators and administrators from 49 states and five territories shared their research findings and educational materials at the conference.

Wayne Sherman, widely recognized as one of the world’s leading fruit breeders, was honored for his research on peaches and other crops. The economic viability of peach growers across the southern United States and in more than 70 foreign countries is linked directly to new and improved peach varieties developed By Sherman during the past 32 years.

In fact, were it not for his Florida Agricultural Experiment Station research and development work, the multimillion dollar peach industries in Florida, Georgia and many other temperature climate areas of the world would not exist. His peach varieties are being grown commercially from Florida to California, and they’re in commercial production in more than 30 countries, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Egypt, Israel, Mexico, South Africa, Spain and Taiwan.

In addition to developing 20 new or improved peach varieties for Florida and other subtropical regions, Sherman has produced 15 new blueberry varieties and 11 nectarines along with apple, pecan, and plum cultivars for commercial and home planting.

Over the past two decades, Sherman has taken the lead in developing a new kind of peach with better taste for consumers and longer shelf-life for producers and shippers. The first new variety, named UFGold, is now being readied for commercial production.

“This is a quantum leap forward,” he said. “It’s a totally new peach, not just an old peach with a little more disease resistance and little better color. We’ve totally remade it.”

John Van Sickle, agricultural economist, was honored for his work with congressional leaders and federal administrators to help achieve landmark trade agreements with Mexico in 1996.

The UF/IFAS marketing and trade expert served as the lead economist for the U.S. tomato industry in its petition to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission (ITC). He worked closely with the Florida legislative delegation, providing expert analysis, market research data and testimony before congressional committees, the commerce department and the ITC.

The five-year compromise agreement that Van Sickle helped negotiate in 1996 is the first of its kind. It set a minimum imported price of 21 cents per pound for tomatoes entering the United States — preventing the heavy surge of shipments at disastrously low prices that occurred in recent years. The agreement serves as a model for future marketing accords on other vegetable commodities.

“Without John Van Sickle, this compromise agreement could not have been negotiated,” said Florida Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla). “This is the first time we’ve been able to reach a formal compromise with Mexico on fresh produce, and it will save the Florida tomato industry.”