USDA awards $16 million for research into sustainable crop and livestock production methods

Farm Forum

WASHINGTON – On May 3, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded $16.5 million in grants to support research into methods for boosting agriculture productivity and ensuring food security in the face of pests, diseases and a changing climate. In addition, USDA announced that it is seeking applications for the next round of projects, which will focus on pollinator health and plant and animal phenomics. The grants are made available through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Established by the 2008 Farm Bill and re-authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, AFRI is the nation’s premier, peer-reviewed competitive 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.

“In the face of diminishing land and water resources and increasingly variable climatic conditions, food production must increase to meet the demands of a world population projected to pass 9 billion by 2050,” said Vilsack. “Funding in research to respond to these challenges should be considered as an investment in our nation’s future, an investment which will pay big dividends in the years to come.”

The awards and available funding announced today fall into the AFRI Food Security Challenge Area, which funds projects that increase agricultural productivity and the availability and accessibility of safe, nutritious food. Fiscal year 2015 projects receiving support today focus on agriculture production systems, breeding and genomics of crops and livestock, and a national strategy for sustainable crop and livestock production. Since 2010, NIFA has awarded more than $219 million to the AFRI Food Security Challenge Area.

Fiscal year 2015 grants include:

• USDA Agricultural Research Service, Fort Collins, Colo., $50,000

• University of Illinois, Champaign, Ill., $2,397,840

• Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., $500,000

• Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, $10,000

• University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky., $120,000

• University of Maryland, College Park, Md., $2,397,840

• Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $2,327,840

• University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo., $2,000,000

• North Dakota State University, Fargo, N.D., $50,000

• North Dakota State University, Fargo, N.D., $2,147,839

• South Dakota State University, Brookings, S.D., $2,382,840

• Utah State University, Logan, Utah, $150,000

• Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $40,000

• Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $2,000,000

Funded projects include North Dakota State University research to improve existing cropping systems through innovative seeding and nutrient management of cover crops. Purdue University will create a new open source framework that can help identify combinations of policies to improve the environment while ensuring food security. Information on all of these FY15 projects can be found on the NIFA website.

Fiscal year 2016 food security project proposals should emphasize pollinator health as well as breeding and phenomics of food crops and animals. Applications are due July 7, 2016 for a total of $16.8 million in available funding. For the first time, grant awards will be equally co-funded by eligible national and state commodity boards, as authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.