NSAC's Blog

Research and Extension Funding Available through AFRI

January 3, 2014

Two days before Christmas, USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture released a new Request for Applications (RFA) for research, education, and extension grants for “foundational programs” within the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.  At least $82 million will be available, and quite possibly a bit more once agricultural appropriations for 2014 are finalized by Congress in the coming weeks.  The deadline for submission of letters of intent are due, for many but not all of the subprograms, by February 19, so it is imperative that interested parties begin engaging with the application process as quickly as possible.

The foundational program corresponds to the priorities for AFRI laid out by Congress in the farm bill.  NIFA sets aside only a portion of total AFRI funds for these priorities, using a majority of AFRI funding for special administratively-designated “challenge” areas.  The foundation programs include six priority areas: plant health and production; animal health and production; food safety/nutrition/health; renewable energy/natural resources/environment; agricultural systems and technology; and agricultural economics and rural communities.

The AFRI challenge areas for 2014 will be food safety, childhood obesity prevention, food security, and water for agriculture, the latter being a new challenge category.  Not available for 2014 other than continuation funding for earlier projects are the challenge areas for sustainable bioenergy and for climate change.  The RFAs for the challenge areas will be available at a later date, probably later in January.

Some Highlights

Within the newly released foundational program RFA, we call special attention to the AFRI subprogram for Plant Breeding for Agricultural Production.  Approximately $20 million will be available for grants of up to $500,000.  Projects must focus on public breeding efforts, and may include new cultivar development and participatory breeding efforts.  AFRI does not have the best track record with respect to funding classical plant breeding projects that are so important for the future of sustainable and organic agriculture, so we view this as an important opportunity to advance a sorely underfunded research area.  Letters of intent are due by February 19 and full applications are due by April 17.  See page 8 of the RFA for further information.

We also make special note of a few other subprograms among the many within the foundational RFA:

  • Agroecosystem Management – This subprogram includes two priority areas: projects that connect biodiversity (including genetic, field, landscape, and species diversity) to production systems and to other ecosystem services; and projects to increase the value of at least three ecosystem services relative to current predominant production systems.  Letters of intent are due by March 12 and full applications are due by June 4.
  • Economics, Markets, and Trade – This economic and social science subprogram covers market structure and performance of supply chains, production and resource use, farm labor markets and immigration policy, agricultural policy design and impacts, and technology development and adoption, among others.  Included in this area are projects that examine the economic impacts of local markets on food supply, demand and quality, strategies for co-existence between GMO and non-GMO technologies within the supply chain, and the economics of food waste and food loss.  Letters of intent are due by February 19 and full application are due by April 28.
  • Small and Medium-Sized Farms – This subprogram promotes projects to develop scale appropriate strategies and technologies to advance the viability, competitiveness and sustainability of small and medium-sized farms.  Included in this area are projects that research strategies to develop local and regional food systems that improve markets for small and mid-sized farms, assess the impact of labor, credit, insurance, and other markets on farm entry and transition for beginning farmers, and examination of options and strategies that can inform public policies to enhance small and mid-sized farm well-being.  Letters of intent are due by February 19 and full application are due by April 28.
  • Entrepreneurship, Technology and Innovation – This subprogram promotes projects to enhance economic opportunity for rural entrepreneurs beyond the farm-gate.  Projects may include developing new businesses through technology adoption, microfinancing, and innovative business strategies such as agro-tourism, as well as technology and knowledge transfer from the lab to the entrepreneur.  Letters of intent are due by February 19 and full application are due by April 28.

For these and all other AFRI foundational subprograms, please refer to the details contained in the newly released RFA http://www.nifa.usda.gov/funding/rfas/pdfs/14_afri_foundation.pdf.

Two New Grant Categories

The new RFA also includes two new grant types – the Exploratory Research Program (ERP) and the Critical Agriculture Research and Extension (CARE) Program.

The ERP awards will focus on challenges, across the full range of AFRI priority areas, that have never been addressed before, with an emphasis on new and emerging ideas, application of new knowledge, and tools required for a paradigm shift in the field.  Proposals will be accepted at any time during FY 2014, but investigators must contact the program leader prior to submitting a letter of intent.  About $2 million will be available for grants of up to $100,000.

The CARE awards will be made to develop and implement, on a quick turnaround basis, solutions to critical current farmer problems related to plant and animal production, protection, and product quality.  Producer engagement is required during both the development and implementation phases, and projects must demonstrate close coordination between research and extension components.  Priority will be given to applications that demonstrate collaboration with recognized stakeholder groups.  Approximately $5 million will be available for grants of up to $150,000.  Letters of intent are due by June 4 and full applications are due by August 7.

Categories: Research, Education & Extension

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