USDA announces ag research funds through NIFA

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(Farm and Dairy file photo)

SALEM, Ohio — The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced the availability of $130 million to fund research, education and Extension projects related to key sectors of agricultural production and sustainability.

The funding is made available through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which is an agency within USDA, which provides leadership and funding for programs that advance ag sciences.

Commodity boards

The funding is part of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Foundational Program (AFRI), authorized in the 2014 farm bill, and also includes research topics proposed by eligible state and national commodity boards, in which the boards intend to equally fund, if their proposal is selected for a grant.

“This funding will support the development of knowledge needed to provide for healthy and nutritious food, increase production efficiency and profitability in the face of climate variability and diminishing land and water resources, advance energy independence, and much more,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, in a news release.

More funding

Later in the week, NIFA also announced funding to help solve critical water problems ($10.7 million), develop bioenergy systems ($21 million), and childhood obesity prevention ($7 million).

Project focus

The AFRI Foundational Program provides research dollars for six priority areas of the 2014 farm bill, plus two additional programs, which are intended to advance ag sciences and find solutions to societal problems.

Focus areas:

  • Plant health and production and plant products ($33 million).
  • Animal health and production and animal products ($31 million).
  • Food safety, nutrition and health ($19 million).
  • Bioenergy, natural resources and environment ($14 million).
  • Agriculture systems and technology ($11 million)
  • Agriculture economics and rural communities ($17 million).
  • Funding for the Critical Agriculture Research and Extension (CARE) program ($3 million).
  • The Exploratory Research Program ($2 million).

NIFA is now seeking applications from universities and other qualified parties, interested in conducting research and programming. Application deadlines vary by program, so applicants should review those dates and rules at www.nifa.usda.gov.

Selection process

Bill Hoffman, chief of staff for NIFA, said the grant process is competitive, with the goal of funding the best science available. Applications are reviewed by experts in those sciences, and about 12 percent of applications are funded.

Hoffman said he’s excited about the commodity program, because it allows commodity boards to propose and co-fund topics that matter most to their industry, while still meeting the national goals of NIFA.

“We’re really excited about this provision,” he said. “We really believe that this is going to help commodity boards and NIFA cooperate on common science topics.”

Projects proposed by the commodity boards include plant breeding for agricultural production, improving food safety, and the CARE program area.

National reach

Science funded by AFRI is intended to help meet food, fiber, and fuel demands as the world’s population continues to grow, with the expectation it will exceed 9 billion by 2050, and in the context of diminishing land and water resources, and variable climate.

In addition, AFRI programs help develop new technologies and a workforce intended to advance our nutritional security, energy self-sufficiency, and the health of Americans. To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural science, visit www.nifa.usda.gov/impacts.

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Chris Kick served Farm and Dairy's readership as a reporter for nearly a decade before accepting a job at Iowa State University Extension. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University.

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