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Establishment of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative


The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is creating a new research, education, and extension program called the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). NIFA is designated to act on behalf of the Secretary of Agriculture in soliciting public comment from interested persons regarding the implementing regulation to be developed for this new program as required under section 7406 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. As part of this process, NIFA conducted a public meeting on Wednesday, September 10, 2008, at the Waterfront Centre in Washington, DC, to solicit comments regarding the implementing regulations to be developed for this program.

Background and Purpose

Section 7406 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Pub. L. 110-246) (i.e., the 2008 Farm Bill) amends subsection (b) of the Competitive, Special, and Facilities Research Grant Act (7 U.S.C. 450i(b)) to authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a new competitive grant program to provide funding for fundamental and applied research, extension, and education to address food and agricultural sciences. The 2008 Farm Bill does not reauthorize the National Research Initiative (NRI). Subject to the availability of appropriations to carry out the AFRI program, the Secretary may award grants to State agricultural experiment stations; colleges and universities; university research foundations; other research institutions and organizations; Federal agencies; national laboratories; private organizations or corporations; individuals; or any group consisting of two or more of the aforementioned entities. Grants shall be awarded to address priorities in United States agriculture in the following areas:

    A) Plant health and production and plant products;

    B) Animal health and production and animal products;

    C) Food safety, nutrition, and health;

    D) Renewable energy, natural resources, and environment;

    E) Agriculture systems and technology; and

    F) Agriculture economics and rural communities.

To the maximum extent practicable, NIFA, in coordination with the Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics (REE), will make awards for high priority research, education, and extension, taking into consideration, when available, the determinations made by the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board. The authority to carry out this program has been delegated to NIFA through the Undersecretary for REE.

The program authorizes for appropriation $700 million in grants for FY 2008-12, of which the Secretary may retain no more than 4% for administrative costs. Funds will be available for obligation for a two-year period beginning in the fiscal year for which funds are first made available. Grants will be awarded on the basis of merit, quality, and relevance and may have terms of up to 10 years.

Of the AFRI funds allocated to research activities, section 7406 directs 60 percent toward grants for fundamental (or basic) research, and 40 percent toward applied research. Of the AFRI funds allocated to fundamental research, not less than 30 percent of AFRI grants will be directed toward research by multidisciplinary teams. In addition, the law specifies that of the total amount appropriated for AFRI, not less than 30 percent is to be used for integrated programs.


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