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USDA Announces More Than $146M Investment in Sustainable Agricultural Research

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2021 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today an investment of more than $146 million in sustainable agricultural research projects aimed at improving a robust, resilient, climate-smart food and agricultural system.

This investment is made under the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Sustainable Agricultural Systems program. This innovative program focuses on a broad base of needed research solutions from addressing labor challenges and promoting land stewardship to correcting climate change impacts in agriculture and critical needs in food and nutrition.

“USDA is tackling urgent challenges facing American agriculture and communities across our nation. Critical issues like food insecurity, drought resilience and response, animal disease prevention, and market disruption requires investments to help meet these challenges. This is the time for agriculture, forestry, and rural communities to act. Together we can lead the way with investments in science and research and climate-smart solutions that feed and nourish families, improve the profitability and resilience of producers, improve forest health, while creating new income opportunities, and building wealth that stays in rural communities,” said Secretary Vilsack.

This investment is part the third installment of NIFA grants within its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Sustainable Agricultural Systems program designed to improve plant and animal production and sustainability, and human and environmental health. AFRI is the nation’s leading and largest competitive grants program for agricultural sciences. These grants are available to eligible colleges, universities and other research organizations.

“Investments in research projects likes these awarded today will result in long-term improvements in agricultural practices that will benefit consumers, farmers and the environment,” said NIFA Director Dr. Carrie Castille. “It takes an inclusive systems approach to tackle these major issues. We are excited to see impacts this research investment will generate for our nation to move us towards solutions that benefit all Americans.”

Examples of the 15 projects funded under the AFRI Sustainable Agriculture Systems projects include:

  • University of California researchers and their partners aim to alleviate groundwater over-use and sustain irrigated agriculture in the Southwest United States. They will develop innovative education programs and novel Extension programming to support sustainable groundwater and irrigated agricultural systems, create models (geophysical, hydrology, biophysical, and socioeconomics), develop climate change adaptation management strategies, and produce decision support tools. ($10 million)
  • University of Hawaii and partners will develop a Children’s Healthy Living Food Systems Model and simulations to identify and test drivers of resiliency in food supply chains for decreasing food waste and increasing food and nutrition security, healthful diets and health among children. The work aims to prevent chronic disease in households and communities across the U.S. Affiliated Pacific insular area. ($10 million)
  • Central State University and its multidisciplinary team, partnering with 1890 land-grant Historically Black Colleges and Universities, a 1994 land-grant Tribal College and 1862 Land-grant Universities, will investigate using hemp as an aquaculture feed ingredient to address food safety concerns about consuming seafood raised with hemp feed additives. They will also research ways to increase economic markets and production sustainability for seafood and hemp. ($10 million)
  • A Colby College partnership project will compare and optimize algae feed additives for dairy cows, and will assess the impact at the animal-, farm- and community-level. The project will include developing integrated public outreach programs to enhance milk production, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and recover nutrients. ($10 million)

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, ensuring access to healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit


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