USDA announced yesterday the availability of approximately $262 million in funds through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) to address five key societal challenges. Roger Beachy, USDA's chief scientist and director of USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) made the announcement on behalf of Secretary Vilsack during a webcast on AFRI.

"By focusing our resources on achievable and measurable outcomes, USDA's investment in science will help address some of America's — and the world's — most intractable problems," says Beachy. "Today's announcement demonstrates USDA's commitment to supporting research, education and extension to bring about true change in areas like climate change, obesity and bioenergy."

AFRI is NIFA's competitive grant program and was established via the 2008 Farm Bill. AFRI supports work in six priority areas: 1) plant health and production and plant products; 2) animal health and production and animal products; 3) food safety, nutrition and health; 4) renewable energy, natural resources and environment; 5) agriculture systems and technology; and 6) agriculture economics and rural communities.

Beachy announced six Requests for Applications (RFAs). One RFA calls for research projects addressing the above priority areas. This work will build a foundation of knowledge critical for solving current and future societal challenges. Six RFAs address these AFRI priorities in five societal challenge areas where research, education, and extension can achieve significant and measurable outcomes. The five challenge area RFAs are:

  • Childhood obesity prevention.
  • Climate change.
  • Food safety.
  • Global food security.
  • Sustainable bioenergy.

In addition, NIFA will release in April a single, separate NIFA Fellowships Grant Program RFA to fund opportunities for pre- and postdoctoral fellowship grants.

Many of the awards designated as targeting societal challenge will be larger in size and longer in duration than awards in previous years, with funding up to $45 million over a five-year award period. Some grants will be eligible for renewal upon achieving specific goals. NIFA expects that such grants will establish collaborations among multiple institutions and organizations and will integrate basic and applied research with deliberate education or extension programs.

More information.

Or contact NIFA at (202) 401-5022 or email:

Source: USDA