USDA announces $10.7 million available for critical water research

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Farm Forum

WASHINGTON – On May 17, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the availability of $10.7 million in funding for research that could solve critical water problems in rural and agricultural watersheds across the United States. This funding is available through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

“Finding solutions for dealing water scarcity as well as maintaining water quality is critical for communities across the country and for the men and women who raise the food we eat,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Better water management practices, tools and technologies will make a difference for farmers, ranchers, and foresters who are constantly adapting to less predictable and more severe weather patterns.”

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 Water for Agriculture Challenge Area, which funds projects that tackle critical water issues by developing both regional systems for the sustainable use and reuse, flow and management of water, and that address water issues focused on production and environmental sustainability efforts at the watershed and farm scale. There is also a focus on solutions for conserving higher quality water and understanding human behavior and its influence on decision making for agricultural water use in the Fiscal Year 2016 projects.

To date, more than $20.5 million in research, education and extension grants have been awarded through AFRI’s Water for Agriculture Challenge Area. Examples of previously funded projects include a grant for the University of Nevada-Reno’s Coordinated Agricultural Project to assess the impacts of climate change on future water supplies and enhance the climate resiliency of tribal agriculture. Also, Clemson University is integrating remote sensing products and weather forecast information for farmers and growers to address the best products, increase agricultural drought indices, and develop an agricultural drought forecasting model to provide near real-time feedback.

Applications are due August 4.