Be a Grant Reviewer for USDA Competitive Grants

The USDA recruits members of the public with subject expertise to serve on panels to prioritize projects for funding. Grant reviewers help decide USDA competitive grants recipients.

Bring sustainable agriculture expertise to the review process.

  • The quality of the review process depends on the expertise of reviewers. Reviewers who understand sustainable agriculture ensure the USDA recognizes sustainable projects for their full worth.

Ensure the most critical projects are funded and guarantee the ongoing success of the program.

  • Each program receives far more applications than can be funded.  Congress and the public are more likely to support programs that yield successful, high-impact results; by identifying projects with high potential, reviewers  help key programs succeed and maintain support.

Get experience with the federal grants process.

  • Serving on a review panel helps you better understand the application process, though you generally cannot apply for a grant in the same year that you are a reviewer.

What Would I Have to Do?

Each program has its own grant review process, but grant reviewers in all of the programs generally:

1) Read and submit written comments on grant proposals – A grant reviewer submits electronic reviews for up to 20 proposals, depending on the program. USDA estimates that it takes at least 2 hours to comment on a proposal, and possibly more.

2) Participate in a panel review meeting – The panel reviews proposals over the phone or in person (in Washington, DC or at regional locations) to recommend and rank proposals for funding.  Each reviewer provides an oral review of his or her assigned proposals.

How do I Sign Up?

Get in touch with your National Program Leader for the program you’re interested in.

Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Programs (FMLFPP) – click here for Farmers Market Promotion and here for other direct local food marketing and promotion.

Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG)

  • Your state Rural Development office, click here
  • Tracey Kennedy,, 202-690-1428

Community Food Projects* – Jane Clary,, 202-720-3891

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP)* – Jill Auburn,, 202-720-2635

Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI)* – Mathieu Ngouajio,, 202-401-4895

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)* – National Program Leaders and Program Area Contacts are named for each of the different research areas within AFRI in the most recent RFA.  For more information on NIFA guidelines for serving on review panels, click here.

* Special Instructions for National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Grants — To be considered as a reviewer for these NIFA programs (not including SARE, see below), in addition to contacting the National Program Leader, send an e-mail message with the name of your department, institution, organization, or business and 4-5 keywords about your area(s) of expertise to

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) – SARE reviews are made by regional Technical Committees, who often serve for multiple grant cycles, depending on the region and the type of grants the committee is reviewing (Farmer-Rancher, Research and Education, Professional Development Program, Graduate Student). Reviewers are chosen for specific committees based on their expertise. As in other grant programs, reviewers serving on a specific committee cannot apply for that type of grant in that year; however, a reviewer on the committee for Farmer-Rancher grants could apply for a Professional Development grant.

To express interest in serving on one of your region’s SARE Technical Committee, or to get more information about the details of the committees, contact your regional coordinator.

Beth Nelson
Regional Coordinator, North Central Region SARE

Jeff Jordan
Program Director, Southern Region SARE

Vern Grubinger
Regional Coordinator, Northeast Region SARE
802-257-7967 x303

Rhonda Miller
Director, Western Region SARE