Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces $130 Million Available for Foundational Agricultural Research, Education and Extension

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that $130 million in funding is available for research, education, and extension projects to support sustainable, productive and economically viable plant and animal production systems, including certified organic production. This funding is available through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Foundational Program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

“Investing in agricultural research ensures that our farmers and ranchers have innovative, safe and sustainable management practices to meet the food needs of the rising world population,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “In addition, studies have shown that every dollar invested in agricultural research now returns over $20 to our economy.”

Established by the 2008 Farm Bill and re-authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, AFRI is the nation’s premier competitive, peer-reviewed grants program for fundamental and applied agricultural sciences. In the seven years since AFRI was established, the program has led to true innovations and ground-breaking discoveries in agriculture to combat childhood obesity, improve and sustain rural economic growth, address water availability issues, increase food production, find new sources of energy, mitigate the impacts of climate variability and enhance resiliency of our food systems, and ensure food safety.

This round of funding is offered through the AFRI Foundational Program, which funds projects that continue building a foundation of knowledge in fundamental and applied food and agricultural sciences. The Foundational Program addresses six priority areas of the 2014 Farm Bill, with various amounts of funding allocated to each priority area. Funding for 2016 is allocated as follows 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; and agriculture economics and rural communities, $17 million.

This request for application (RFA) also includes research topics proposed to be funded equally by eligible national and state commodity boards and NIFA, as authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. Commodity board priority topics include those proposed for the plant breeding for agricultural production program area, improving the food safety program area, as well as $3 million for the Critical Agriculture Research and Extension (CARE) program area.

Also, $2 million in funding is available for the Exploratory Research Program (ERP) to address critical and emerging issues. NIFA is offering the Educational Literacy Initiative through the AFRI program to support education, training and workforce development through the pre- and postdoctoral fellowships program, research and extension experiences program for undergraduate students, and professional development for secondary school teachers and educational professionals.

Finally, the AFRI Foundational program is piloting a “Distributed Peer Review” process, a modified peer-review approach intended to improve peer review efficiencies for three select program area priorities while maintaining the quality and integrity of the review process. Additional information on the distributed peer review process is available on the NIFA website.

Application submission deadlines vary by program. To view the RFA, visit the NIFA website.

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