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USDA Announces Funding for Specialty Crop Research


The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) released details on up to $48.1 million in available funding to support systems-based research and extension activities to accelerate science-based solutions and new technology for the specialty crop industry. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the grants yesterday at the New York Times Food for Tomorrow Conference in Pocantico Hills, N.Y. The grants are to be funded through NIFA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI).

“The Specialty Crop Research Initiative offers strategic investments to help bring specialty crops to market,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “By using this approach, we encourage stakeholders to work together to address problem-solving in a comprehensive way that leads to sustainable, positive outcomes and impacts.”

Eligible crops are defined in the Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act, reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. SCRI invests in research into long-term solutions that address challenges in the overlapping systems of production, distribution and processing, and consumer demand and markets. This research initiative encourages collaboration, open communication, the exchange of information, and the development of resources that accelerate application of scientific discovery and technology. SCRI gives priority to projects that are multi-state, multi-institutional, or trans-disciplinary, for example bringing biological and physical scientists together with economists and social scientists to address challenges in a holistic manner.

The SCRI program has five focus areas including research in plant breeding, pest management, production efficiency, new innovations and technology, and food safety in production and processing. Grant categories include standard research and extension projects, coordinated agricultural projects, and research and extension planning projects.

SCRI also encourages projects involving international partnerships. Applicants must clearly describe and demonstrate how international activities proposed in applications submitted to SCRI will contribute to advances in U.S. specialty crop industries.

To date, NIFA has awarded almost $400 million through the SCRI program. Recent SCRI grants include a research project led by a University of Central Florida team to test a bactericide against citrus greening disease, a problem that has cost the state of Florida alone more than $3 billion in lost revenue since 2007. Another SCRI grant helped a research team led by the University of Georgia to develop an advanced sensor system to help harvest and process blueberries at high-speed with low loss. A Purdue University-led SCRI project developed an LED lighting system that helps grow more produce at lower costs.

SCRI pre-applications are due by 5:00 pm Eastern Time on November 15, 2016. For more information see the request for applications.

Eligible applicants include federal agencies, national laboratories, colleges and universities, research institutions and organizations, private organizations or corporations, State Agricultural Experiment Stations, Cooperative Extension Services, individuals, or groups consisting of two or more of these entities. The anticipated $48.1 million in funding for 2017 projects is subject to passage of a federal appropriations act or continuing resolution for FY 2017.

NIFA invests in and advances innovative and transformative research, education and extension to solve societal challenges and ensure the long-term viability of agriculture. NIFA support for the best and brightest scientists and extension personnel have resulted in user-inspired, groundbreaking discoveries that are combating childhood obesity, improving and sustaining rural economic growth, addressing water availability issues, increasing food production, finding new sources of energy, mitigating climate variability and ensuring food safety.

Source: USDA

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