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USDA’s Extramural Research Agency is Now the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

Unless you’re into agricultural research, you may have missed a new U.S. Federal funding source for life sciences research. On 1 October 2009, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) took over the duties of the Cooperative, State, Research, Education and Extension Service, (CSREES). NIFA offers grant programs that support research in science related to food production, engineering, biotechnology, and more.

NIFA was established through the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. Its mission is to enhance knowledge in human health, agriculture, environmental science, and related disciplines within the land-grant university system and other public, private and non-profit organizations. Land-grant universities date back to the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890, and traditionally focus on agriculture, engineering, and science.

In an 8 October speech at the opening of NIFA, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that he wants the agency to operate differently than CSREES. “It is no exaggeration to say that NIFA will be a research ‘start-up’ company,” Vilsack said. “We will be rebuilding our competitive grants program from the ground up to generate real results for the American people.”  

Examples of the research Vilsack called for can be found in GrantsNet:

– NIFA’s Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Fields program supports research and extension projects focused on topics such as (1)  safe and nutritious food supplies;  (2) support for 21st century rural communities; and (3) climate change. These institutional grants aim to increase the participation of women and underrepresented minorities from rural areas in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. The deadline for the current competition is 7 June.

– The Critical Issues: Emerging and New Plant and Animal Diseases research program provides one-time seed funding for research on plant pests and diseases. Some $370,000 in funds will be available in fiscal year 2010. The project period will be up to 2 years. The deadline is 21 June.

For more information about these programs and other NIFA research opportunities, click on the GrantsNet links above or visit the NIFA Web site.