Agricultural Research Service employees whose accomplishments include helping protect the environment, boosting rural job opportunities, and ensuring the safety of the food supply were among those honored at the recent 57th Annual Secretary's Honor Awards Ceremony.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman presented awards at the Washington, D.C., event.

“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.”

Honorees from the California-Arizona region and their fields of accomplishment included:

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

  • 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.

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

    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.

    ARS employees who were winners of nominations from outside of their agency also were acknowledged at the celebration. Included was:

  • Kevin J. Hackett, ARS national program leader for biological control, and colleagues, for participating in a multiagency effort to develop, and put into action, strategies to control the glassy-winged sharpshooter, a destructive insect.