Specialty Crop Research Initiative


Program Basics

Newly authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) is a competitive grant program that funds specialty crop research and extension projects conducted by federal agencies, national laboratories, colleges and universities, research institutions and organizations, private organizations or corporations, State agricultural experiment stations, and individuals. The research and extension projects must address the critical needs of the specialty crop industry, including:

  • Plant breeding, genetics, and genomics to improve crop characteristics, including food quality and nutrient content, nutrient management, and pest management among other subtopics;
  • Efforts to identify and address threats from pests and diseases, including threats to pollinators;
  • Efforts to improve production efficiency, productivity, and profitability over the long term (including specialty crop policy and marketing);
  • New innovations and technology, including improved mechanization and technologies that delay or inhibit ripening; or
  • Methods to prevent, detect, monitor, control, and respond to potential food safety hazards in the production and processing of specialty crops, including fresh produce.

Each of these five purposes will receive at least 10% of the total funding for the program to ensure that one or two purposes are not funded at the expense of all the others.  Priority will be given to projects that are multi-state, multi-institutional, or multidisciplinary and that include explicit mechanisms to communicate results to producers and the public.  Matching funds at least equivalent to the grant amount are required.

2008 Farm Bill Changes

This is a new farm bill program.

Section 7311 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (FCEA) of 2008 amends Title IV of the Agricultural, Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998 to establish the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, to be codified at 7 U.S.C. 7632.

Funding

Over the life of the new farm bill, $230 million in mandatory funding is provided for the program.  An additional authorization of appropriations for up to $100 million each fiscal year is also provided should Congress decide that additional funding is warranted.

Specialty Crop Research Initiative Funding

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

$30 M

$50 M

$50 M

$50 M

$50 M

Please note: The funding levels in the chart above show the amount of mandatory funding reserved by the 2008 Farm Bill for this program to be provided through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation.  However, Congress does at times pass subsequent appropriations legislation that caps the funding level for a particular year for a particular program at less than provided by the farm bill in order to use the resulting savings to fund a different program.  Therefore, despite its “mandatory” status, the funding level for a given year could be less than the farm bill dictates should the Appropriations Committee decide to raid the farm bill to fund other programs under its jurisdiction.

Implementation Basics

The program is administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA; formerly, the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service).  Each year NIFA will release a Request for Applications (RFA) which is available on their website, on Grants.gov, and through the Federal Register.  However, due to the expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill on October 1st, 2012, no future RFAs will be issued for SCRI until Congress reauthorizes the program in a new farm bill or extension package.

For up-to-date application deadlines and links to current RFAs, you can always visit NSAC’s quick guide to farm bill programs and grants.

After the application deadline, proposals are reviewed and ranked for merit and relevance by peer review committees, with top ranked proposals selected for funding.

A six-month public comment period on the RFA is triggered when the RFA is released.During the comment period, recommendations for priority topics for the following year’s RFA may be submitted by individuals and organizations to NIFA.

NIFA has released a final rule regarding the administrative provisions for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

Additional Resources

For more information on the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), visit NIFA’s program website.