U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Sustainable Agricultural Systems
The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) provides funding for fundamental and applied research, education, and extension projects in food, agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences. Within AFRI, the Sustainable Agricultural Systems (SAS) program aims to help transform U.S. food and agricultural system to increase production in sustainable ways as the world population approaches 10 billion by 2050, and doing so in the context of diminishing land and water resources, changing climate and increasing frequency of extreme weather events, threats of outbreaks of diseases and pests, and challenges to human health and well-being.
The SAS Program aims to promote the sustainable supply of abundant, affordable, safe, nutritious, and accessible food and other agricultural products, while enhancing economic opportunities and improving the long-term health and well-being of all Americans. SAS will support projects focused on increasing agricultural productivity; optimizing water and nitrogen use efficiency; protecting yield losses from stresses, diseases, and pests; reducing food-borne diseases; and advancing development of biobased fuels, chemicals, and coproducts. SAS seeks creative and visionary project applications that use transdisciplinary teams and integrated research, education, and extension activities to promote convergence of science and technology to solve present and future food and agricultural production system challenges.
Successful projects will consider what has contributed to present successes of U.S. food and agriculture systems, and challenges to continued and future success. Agricultural systems are inclusive of value chains from production to consumption for food or other products from farms, ranches, and managed forests across the rural-urban continuum from conventional open-fields to controlled production in built environments. Consideration must be given for how new strategies or other technical interventions may alter many factors involved in the conduct of the system.
Applicants must demonstrate changes that are crucial to ensuring the food and agricultural supply and viability of the entire value chain. This includes profitability, natural resources quality, food safety and quality, and the health and well-being of people and communities. Additionally, the systems must help develop and execute approaches to reducing the ecological footprint including, but not limited to, water and nutrient use, greenhouse gases, and energy use.
Projects must include demonstrable efforts that enhance the education and training of the next generation of farmers, workers, and scientists who are equipped to use new skills, technology, training, and experiences to find solutions to global food and agricultural challenges. Extension and other engagement must advance public acceptance of transformative discoveries. These outcomes must produce significant behavioral changes that lead to sustainable production and consumption practices, and improve the health and well-being of the public.
Projects must propose performance metrics that measure progress during the grant period toward the 25-year goals described below. These metrics must demonstrate how the proposed system and its components contribute to productivity and profitability, reduced ecological footprint, natural resources quality, food safety and quality, nutritional security, human health and well-being, a skilled workforce, and safe jobs. The 25-year goals include to:
- Increase growth of agricultural total factor productivity (TFP) from the current 1.5 percent to 2 percent per year and agricultural production by 2 percent annually. TFP is a measure of productivity performance that takes into account a broad set of inputs used in agricultural production that can be influenced by changes across systems. TFP compares all land, labor, capital, and material resources used in the sector’s total output.
- Improve water and nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient use efficiency by 50 percent.
- Reduce losses due to environmental stresses, insects and other invertebrate pests, weeds, or diseases by 20 percent in crops and animals used for food, fiber, or bioproducts production.
- Produce 50 billion gallons of biofuels and 50 billion pounds of biobased chemicals and bioproducts in the next 25 years.
- Reduce food-borne illnesses to 8.5 cases per 100,000 people in the U.S. population per year.
This SAS solicitation provides funding for integrated research, education, and extension projects, which also includes Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) grants. FASE grants are defined as funding awarded to eligible applicants to strengthen science capabilities of project directors, to help institutions develop competitive scientific programs, and to attract new scientists into careers in high-priority areas of national need in agriculture, food, and environmental sciences. FASE awards may apply to any of the three agricultural knowledge components (i.e., research, education, and extension). FASE awards include Pre- and Postdoctoral Fellowships, New Investigator grants, and Strengthening grants.
Amount: A total of $80,000,000 is available to make awards of up to $10,000,000 each.
Eligibility: Eligibility is linked to the project type as specified below.
- Integrated research, education, and extension projects: Eligible applicants include: a) Colleges and universities; b) 1994 Land-Grant Institutions; and c) Hispanic-serving agricultural colleges and universities.
- Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) Grants: Eligibility is limited to 1) small and mid-sized or minority-serving degree-granting institutions that previously had limited institutional success for receiving federal funds or 2) State Agricultural Experiment Stations or degree-granting institutions eligible for USDA Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) funding (New Mexico is listed as an eligible state). Note that under the FASE program, only Strengthening Coordinated Agricultural Project Grants are solicited in this RFA.
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