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AFRI Sustainable Agricultural Systems RFA Frequently Asked Questions

These are some Frequently Asked Questions about the AFRI Sustainable Agricultural Systems program.

General Questions

General questions should be sent to afri-sas@usda.gov. All associated National Program Leaders (NPLs) listed in the RFA have access to the SAS email and can reply to questions. If you would like to discuss whether your potential project fits the program, please send a short summary of the project to the SAS email (above) to set up a time to discuss it. Additionally, applicants can contact the specific NPLs listed in the RFA.

Under the AFRI SAS RFA, submitted projects for the Sustainable Agricultural Systems A9201 program area priority must be "fully" integrated and address all three NIFA activity functions (research, education, and extension).  The A9221 program area, must be integrated projects containing Research & Extension ONLY.  The functions should be interdependent and necessary for the success of the project, and no more than two-thirds of the project’s budget may focus on a single component. For additional information on submission of integrated project types, please see pages 3-5 of "AFRI Project Types" in the attachments list located on the AFRI RFA Resources page.

The Sustainable Agricultural Systems program area priorities are requesting only integrated project applications. Eligible applicants for integrated projects include colleges and universities, 1994 land-grant institutions (tribal colleges), and Hispanic-serving agricultural colleges and universities that meet some additional requirements.

Eligible institutions do not include foreign and international organizations. See Part III, C of the RFA for more details on eligibility for integrated projects.

Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) grants help institutions develop competitive projects and attract new scientists and educators to careers in high priority areas of national need in agriculture, food, and environmental sciences. FASE Grants have additional eligibility requirements; please see Part II, D of the RFA for details. For more information, visit the FASE Grants website.

No, the AFRI SAS program is not accepting applications for conference grants or workshops.

Commonly used terms and acronyms are defined at the end of the RFA. For additional definitions, refer to the SAS Glossary.

Applicants are encouraged to consult the definitions and examples of the food and agricultural systems in:

Resubmitted applications are allowed for all SAS program area priorities, however, an LOI is still required for FY 2023. Please see the instructions in Part II, B of the RFA which specify additional information needed in resubmitted applications. The SAS goals change from year to year, so you should ensure that your application appropriately addresses a goal(s) as outlined in Part I, C and D. Please read the RFA and associated instructions thoroughly.

There is no minimum budget specified for projects, only a maximum budget as indicated in the RFA. To ensure that you submit a competitive project, we urge all potential applicants to carefully read the complete RFA.

Please keep in mind that AFRI SAS program area priority "is soliciting creative and visionary project applications developed by transdisciplinary teams that integrate research, education, and extension activities and effectively use a systems approach to promote convergence of science and technology" to address one or more of the long-term goals listed in the RFA. The requested budgets should be sufficient to support such projects.

The AFRI SAS Program has funded several projects, you can read more about the selected projects through this link of previously funded projects.

The amount available for new grants in this FY 2023 SAS RFA is approximately $80 million, for awards of up to $10 million each for A9201 and $5 million for A9221.

The FY 2023 AFRI SAS RFA has been posted. If you’re interested in signing up for notifications from Grants.gov for all AFRI RFA postings including modifications to RFAs, there are instructions on how to do so on our website.

An RFA webinar will be held on March 30th 2023 (2:00 p.m. Eastern Time), registration for the event can be found here: AFRI FY23 Sustainable Agricultural Systems RFA Technical Assistance Webinar | National Institute of Food and Agriculture (usda.gov)

Letter of Intent Questions

Yes, submission of an LOI prior to the LOI deadline is required for submission of a full proposal for AFRI SAS. Proposals that are submitted that did not submit an LOI will not be reviewed.

For detailed guidance on LOI submission, see the AFRI RFA Resources page "AFRI Letter of Intent Instructions" in the attachments list).

LOIs for Coordinated Agricultural Projects for all Sustainable Agricultural Systems program area priorities must be submitted by an integrated project eligible institution. LOIs must include:

  1. the specific program goal(s) (i.e., Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry, Bioeconomy, Nutrition Security, and/or Reducing Enteric Methane Emission from Ruminants) being addressed by the project within the "specific objectives" section of the LOI;
  2. description of the objectives and deliverables addressed by the project, including short, medium, and long-term objectives within the "specific objectives" section of the LOI;
  3. description of the scope of systems and justification of components under investigation within the "approach" section of the LOI;
  4. description of how the project will be integrated (i.e., integrate research, education, and extension) within the "approach" section of the LOI;
  5. clear descriptions and justification of the methods for the transdisciplinary approach to be used to achieve the desired goal(s) also within the "approach" section of the LOI; and
  6. description of the short, medium, and long-term benefits to the food, forest, or agricultural system within the "potential impact and expected outcomes" of the LOI.

The LOIs for the AFRI Sustainable Agricultural Systems RFA should be emailed to afri-sas@usda.gov. The LOI deadline for all Sustainable Agricultural Systems program area priorities is Thursday April 13, 2023 (5:00 p.m. Eastern Time).

Late submissions will not be accepted.

All LOIs submitted to this program will be subjected to an initial administrative evaluation for key program requirements including submission deadline, file format, page limit, and eligibility. LOIs that fail to adhere to the format guidelines listed above or are submitted from ineligible institutions will be declined and not considered further for review. The project team submitting an LOI that is not accepted will not be eligible for submission of a full proposal.

Applicants, who pass the initial administrative evaluation, will receive an email either encouraging or discouraging them from submitting a full application. You will not receive reviewer comments or suggestions on your LOI. Notifications of LOI determinations will generally be sent 3 to 4 weeks after the LOI submission deadline.

Application Questions

Application and submission information including page limits and narrative font sizes for AFRI Sustainable Agricultural Systems RFA applications are available at AFRI RFA Resources page ("2023 Sustainable Agricultural Systems RFA Additional Information for Part IV, C" in the attachments list), which is linked to from Part IV, C of the RFA.

We recognize that the participants may change as you develop a full proposal. That is allowed for this program, especially if it will build a more transdisciplinary team for applications to for all SAS program area priorities. From the LOI to the proposal, the project title should remain the same as well as the goals/approach described in the LOI. Because an LOI is a requirement of this program, having the same title/planned project will allow us to identify your project as having submitted an associated LOI.

The duration of the award should be no more than five years for AFRI SAS and should be commensurate with the work proposed. The award duration may be less than five years.

AFRI limits indirect costs to 30% of the total Federal funds provided (or 42.857% of total direct costs) under each award. Indirect costs of subawards should be included when calculating indirect cost percentage of the application. When preparing budgets, you should limit your request for the recovery of indirect costs to the lesser of your institution’s official negotiated indirect cost rate or the equivalent of 30 percent of total Federal funds awarded. See Part V section 7.9 of the l NIFA Grants.gov Application Guide for further indirect cost information.

Yes. For the guidelines on preparation and inclusion of a data management plan (DMP) in your application, see Data Management Plan for NIFA-Funded Research, Education and Extension Projects on the NIFA website. Also included on the web page are FAQs and information about accessing examples of DMPs. In addition, general guidelines for Data Management Planning for USDA agencies are available at the National Agricultural Library website.

Yes. A logic model is a required document for integrated project applications. For additional information on logic models, please see the Logic Model Planning Process page.

The external evaluator required for the Sustainable Agricultural Systems program area priorities refers to an evaluator who is external to the membership of the team listed on the proposal. Someone who is listed as a co-PD or investigator on the grant is not appropriate to serve as the external evaluator of the project. The external evaluator should have no role in the project, other than as the external evaluator. The external evaluator can be employed by a university participating on the proposal.

The deadline for application submissions through the Grants.gov system to the AFRI Sustainable Agricultural Systems RFA is Thursday, July 13, 2023 (5:00 p.m. Eastern Time). Applications for projects that did not successfully submit a letter of intent will not be reviewed.

Late applications also will not be reviewed.

  • Read the RFA carefully to make sure your application covers the required information and fits the program.
  • Applications in A9201 must be for "fully" integrated projects, addressing research, education, and extension, submitted as either standard or strengthening Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP) grants. Applications for any other grant type in the Sustainable Agricultural Systems (A9201) program area priority will be returned without review.
  • Applications in A9221 must be integrated projects containing Research & Extension only, submitted as either standard or strengthening Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP) grants. Applications for any other grant type in the Sustainable Agricultural Systems (A9221) program area priority will be returned without review.
  • The Assistance Listing Number is 10.310 and the Assistance Listing title is Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). The Funding Opportunity Number (FON) is USDA-NIFA-AFRI- 009802. Sustainable Agricultural Systems Program Code Name uses Program Code A9201 or A9221, as appropriate.
  • All documents in an application submission need to be saved as PDF. We do not accept Word documents as part of applications. Submission of incorrect file formats will result in your proposal being returned without review.
  • Detailed AFRI evaluation criteria are found on the AFRI RFA Resources page ("AFRI Review Criteria" in the attachments list) which is linked from Part V, B of the RFA. In addition to the requirements in the program description, the review criteria may clarify what the peer review panel will be looking for in all SAS program area priority applications, specifically the Integrated Projects section.
  • We advise that applications be submitted early in case of issues with Grants.gov, which can take some time to resolve.

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