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How NIFA Supports Nation’s Farmers and Ranchers

Nifa Authors
Margaret Lawrence, Writer-Editor

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) works to ensure the long-term sustainability and viability of agriculture in our nation. We provide visionary leadership and vital funding for programs that advance agriculture-related sciences.

The agency supports research and educational efforts to provide American farmers and ranchers with the tools they need to provide safe, affordable, nutritious food grown in a sustainable way to feed all who call America home. Additionally, NIFA supports Extension which translates the knowledge gained through research and education directly to farmers and communities across the nation to make a positive difference in their lives.

In FY21, NIFA provided just over $1 billion for research and education programs. Additionally, more than $633 million went to Extension programs, and another $206 million funded integrated programs.

How does NIFA distribute those monies? The agency uses multiple routes, including capacity funding and competitive grants.

First, let’s look more closely at capacity funding. NIFA provides capacity funding to 112 Land-grant Institutions. The amount NIFA provides to each institution is determined by statutorily defined formulas, as well as variables like rural population, number of farms and poverty. University leaders choose which projects will be supported by their capacity funds.

Capacity funding supports research in many forms from basic inquiry, applied and translational research, and pilot and field demonstration. It also creates a process where researchers respond to identified needs, and then Cooperative Extension shares it with people.

Capacity-funded projects invest in topics directly relevant to agriculture--agricultural production, food safety, agribusiness and bioenergy, among others.

Competitive grants are another important way NIFA provides funding for fundamental and applied research, Extension, and higher education activities, as well as for projects that integrate research, education and Extension functions. Competitive programs enable NIFA to attract a large applicant pool to tackle agricultural issues of vital national interest.

NIFA offers a number of competitive grant programs, but the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) is the largest and best-known agriculture and food competitive research programs. NIFA awards AFRI grants to increase food production, ensure food safety and security, improve rural economies, stimulate the bioeconomy, mitigate impacts of climate variability, address water availability issues and train the next generation of the agricultural workforce.  For FY2021 funding, NIFA had a $10 million dollar increase in AFRI appropriations, enabling us to fund additional deserving projects.

NIFA also works closely with other USDA agencies to support the nation’s farmers, ranchers and all involved in the nation’s agricultural economy. Currently, NIFA is working hand-in-hand with USDA’s Rural Development and the Agriculture Marketing Service in a $215 million cross-departmental effort.

This collaboration supports a recently announced USDA focus to support increased capacity and workforce development for meat and poultry processing, distribution and marketing capacity, strengthening local and regional food systems, researching organic and emerging opportunities, exploring new markets abroad, and safeguarding animal and plant health and food safety.

NIFA continues to build and expand programs and services as we work to support farmers and ranchers.


Farm Bill Priority Areas
Agriculture systems and technology
Agriculture economics and rural communities

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