February 7 marks the first anniversary of the Agriculture Act of 2014, commonly known as the 2014 Farm Bill. This milestone provides an opportunity to report on the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) efforts during the last year to implement the many provisions of relevance to the agency. Here are a few of the more significant provisions that have been implemented:
- NIFA developed language for the new requirement for financial matching—monetary, in-kind, or both, from non-federal sources—of some competitive grant awards. Later congressional action waived this new matching requirement on Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) awards made with fiscal year 2015 and prior funds.
- The agency developed an online process for academic institutions to be designated as non-land grant colleges of agriculture.
- The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research has been launched, and the Board, on which I serve as an ex-officio member, is in the process of developing a strategic direction to invest leveraged resources in support of agricultural research and extension.
- NIFA welcomed three new land-grant institutions, including two 1994 institutions: College of the Muscogee Nation (Oklahoma) and Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College (Michigan), and the 1890 Central State University (Ohio).
- The Farm Bill reauthorized the Mandatory Programs, including the Specialty Crops Research Initiative (SCRI), the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Initiative (BFRDP), the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), and the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program. As a consequence, $120 million of funding was reinstated for these critical research and extension projects.
- The agency deployed the SCRI grant opportunity, which provides $80 million in mandatory spending on issues relevant to specialty crops, with $25 million dedicated to a new Citrus Disease Research and Extension program intended to help develop innovative approaches to fighting the devastating citrus disease, Huanglongbing or Citrus Greening. On Feb. 9, Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the awarding of $23 million for seven projects may help develop long-terms solutions.
- NIFA offered the 2014 OREI program, which provided $20 million to fund 19 organic agriculture research and extension projects.
- NIFA made 39 awards, totaling $18.9 million, through the BFRDP competitive grants program to assist new farmers.
- NIFA launched a new $35 million competitive grant program, the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program, which is intended to enhance the purchase and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants.
- Following stakeholder input, NIFA has developed language to prioritize centers of excellence in many of its competitive grants programs; additional details are provided in the forthcoming requests for applications (RFAs).
- Specific language is being developed, based on stakeholder input, to create competitive funding opportunities in partnership with Commodity Promotion Boards that will be a part of the 2016 AFRI program.
We have an exciting year ahead of us, and I look forward to continue to report on NIFA’s accomplishments in implementing the Farm Bill.