The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the Farm Bill) was signed into law on December 21, 2018. It authorizes NIFA’s many programs related to agriculture, food, the environment, and communities. NIFA works with other government agencies, industry, and academia to lead research, education, and extension activities.
The 2018 Farm Bill authorizes the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) food and agricultural programs through September 30, 2023, and grants NIFA the authority to continue NIFA's flagship competitive grants program, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) and advance science in six priority areas:
- Agriculture economics and rural communities
- Agriculture systems and technology
- Animal health and production and animal products
- Bioenergy, natural resources, and environment
- Food safety, nutrition, and health
- Plant health and production and plant products
Prosperity and economic security for individuals and families, farmers and ranchers, business owners, and consumers are vital to a strong economy. The Farm Bill authorizes NIFA to continue to support programs that strengthen rural economies. NIFA’s research, education, and extension programs help people make sound financial management decisions, discover new economic opportunities, develop successful agricultural and nonagricultural enterprises, take advantage of new and consumer-driven markets, and understand the implications of public policy on these activities.
The Farm Bill supports the development of advanced technologies to meet the complex agricultural challenges faced by the United States and countries throughout the world. Agricultural systems—both crop and animal— involve issues such as labor, marketing, finances, natural resources, genetic stock, and equipment. NIFA-supported projects address these issues as a system, rather than on an individual basis, because a holistic approach offers greater management flexibility, safer working conditions, and a more sound economy and environment.
Animals are one of the most important aspects of agriculture in America. NIFA’s investments in animal science have found new and better ways to advance animal production technology, enable the industry to respond to consumer demand, and advance human health and nutrition through better animal health and breeding. NIFA’s animal-related programs—which include beef, dairy cattle, poultry, swine, sheep, goats, and aquaculture—encourage a multidisciplinary approach to research, education, and extension activities.
NIFA integrates research, education, and extension expertise to address environmental and natural resource priorities. The agency’s programs seek to develop the next generation of biofuels that will not only power machines, but the American economy as a whole. Furthermore, these programs improve air, soil, and water quality; fish and wildlife management; sustainable use and management of forests, rangeland, and watersheds; and lead to a better understanding of how the changing climate affects agriculture.
Poor dietary choices, unhealthy lifestyles, foodborne illnesses, and the potential for terrorism and other attacks on the U.S. food supply are national concerns. NIFA-funded programs help strengthen the nation’s ability to address and reduce the negative effects of these concerns as well as issues related to food security and food science and technology.
NIFA-funded plant and plant product programs provide better understanding of plants: how they grow, how to improve productivity, and how to use them in new ways. These programs reflect the diversity of plants and their uses around the world. NIFA also supports education programs, such as Master Gardeners and the eXtension program, which bring science-based information about growing plants to the public.