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Government Relations Update

2016 Agricultural Food and Research Initiative (AFRI) Foundational Program

We are pleased to announce the release of the 2016 Agricultural Food and Research Initiative (AFRI) Foundational Program request for applications.  The Agricultural Economics and Rural Communities program area (AERC) has several grant opportunities you or your colleagues may be interested in.  Some new features to this year’s offering include:

  • A new joint ERS/NIFA program on behavioral economics and agr-environmental policy design
  • A new proposal review procedure for the Economics, Markets and Trade program. 

Within Bioenergy, Natural Resources, and Environment (BNRE) there is a new program titled Socioeconomic Implications and Public Policy Challenges of Bioenergy and Bioproducts Market Development and Expansion.

We will provide a brief overview of the AERC and BNRE programs and new features in a webinar.  We invite you to participate in the webinar:

The session will be interactive and we will be able to address your questions online.  We will also record the session for those unable to attend. 

Courtesy of Robbin Shoemaker, USDA NIFA

NIFA Seeks Research Topics from Commodity Boards for FY 2017 AFRI Program:

Agency Builds on Positive First-Year Implementation of New Farm Bill Initiative

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is reaching out to eligible national and state commodity boards, and marketing orders to propose topics for research under its FY2017 Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) competitive grants program.

The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), established by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill, is the nation’s premier peer reviewed competitive grants program for fundamental and applied agricultural sciences. AFRI-funded science is vital to meeting food, fiber, and fuel demands as the world’s population races toward a projected nine billion by 2050, diminishing land and water resources, and increasingly variable climatic conditions. In addition, AFRI programs help develop new technologies and a workforce that will advance our national security, our energy self-sufficiency, and the health of Americans.

This is the second year NIFA has implemented the 2014 Farm Bill commodity board provision, which is enhancing collaboration between the Agency and commodity groups as well as leveraging additional funds for critical research in areas of common interest. Proposed topics may be chosen for inclusion under a specific priority area of an AFRI RFA (Request for Applications).

In FY 2016, the first year of collaboration with commodity boards, seven topics from five commodity boards were integrated into two AFRI RFAs: the Foundational Program RFA and the Food Security Challenge Area RFA. The five boards included the Kansas Wheat Commission, the National Pork Board, the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, the Washington State Potato Commission and the National Peanut Board. Collectively, these five commodity boards have offered $1.7 million for research projects to be funded on topics proposed by the boards: novel pre-breeding applications for quality enhancement in hard red winter wheat; breeding for genetic resistance to wheat viruses; evaluation of various compounds as alternatives to antibiotics to treat and prevent disease in pork production; environmental influence on phenomics in crop improvement and production; understanding soil ecology to manage potato soil health; drought tolerance and efficient use of water resources in peanuts; and improved peanut and food allergy diagnostic methods. Applicants interested in these topics are encouraged to learn more about these grant opportunities at AFRI Request for Applications and contact the respective board to discuss their applications.

FY17 Federal Register Notice “Solicitation of Commodity Board Topics and Contribution of Funding Under the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program,” published May 18, invites topic submissions from eligible commodity boards and marketing orders, outlines the process NIFA will use to evaluate the appropriateness of these topics for inclusion in AFRI Request for Applications, and describes the commitment commodity boards will be required to make in order for NIFA to jointly fund AFRI applications competitively selected for award within a topic area submitted by the commodity boards. 

Eligible commodity boards and marketing orders must address an agricultural commodity that:  

  • Includes a combination of promotion, research, industry information, or consumer information activities;
  • Is funded by mandatory assessments on producers or processors; and
  • Is designed to maintain or expand markets and uses for the commodity (as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture).

Boards can propose topics with contributed funding amounts that vary depending on AFRI priority areas, up to $2.5 million; no more than $10 million can be contributed from any one board. Boards are encouraged to visit the NIFA Commodity Boards web page for more information on these areas and details on the topic submission process.

An informational webinar is planned for June 1, 2-3:30 p.m. (EST).  To participate, visit:

Call in number: 1 888 844 9904

Participant access code: 1658110#

For more information about the 2014 Farm Bill: Implementation of Commodity Boards Provision and about NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program (AFRI), visit NIFA Commodity Boards web page or email Wide dissemination of this notice is encouraged.

Priorities and Solutions: Project Provocateur Webinars

As part of the agricultural and applied economic priorities and solutions project, we are going to host webinars to encourage greater engagement in the ideas presented at the workshop. Please consider attending to hear more about these innovative and forward-thinking ideas!

All webinars will be recorded and made available on the C-FARE YouTube Channel.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016, at 12 noon ET

Agricultural production and policy

Keith Coble, A W.L. Giles Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Economics, Mississippi State University

Keith Coble will discuss his vision for how our profession can contribute to solving important problems relating to agricultural production and policy questions associated with those problems. He will suggest that long-standing risks such as market volatility and weather and climate change will continue to pose new challenges while environmental and resource constraints will grow. However, the data used to answer important empirical questions appears be changing dramatically and big data is opening many new doors for research. Ultimately policy makers will still value quality scientific research from objective sources. The challenge is for our profession to provide it.

Agribusiness and food marketing systems

James Vercammen, Professor of Food and Resource Economics, University of British Columbia

Academic work in agricultural economics is increasingly driven by the availability of high-quality data sets. While this is good in that important policy questions can be answered more carefully, it does mean, however, that subject areas such as agribusiness and food supply chains that are not well endowed with data are not receiving the research attention they deserve. Graduate students must be shown the value of strong conceptual frameworks, case studies and structural econometric methods of empirical analysis to ensure that they are well equipped to effectively tackle a broad array of topics in their professional careers.

Friday, May 27, 2016, at 12 noon ET

Consumer economics

Jayson Lusk, Regents Professor and Willard Sparks Endowed Chair, Oklahoma State University

The presentation will discuss emerging issues and priority areas related to food policy and consumer concerns about food.

Thursday, June 2, 2016 at 12 noon ET

Natural resources and environmental policy

Madhu Khanna, Professor of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

Sustainably growing the food needed to feed 9 billion people by mid-century in the face of climate change and growing policy interest in bioenergy is a grand societal challenge. Integrated approaches that link natural systems with human decisions and that improve our understanding of the effects of climate change on human and natural systems and the potential for adaptation are critical to finding innovative solutions. The potential to use big data to improve private and societal decision-making, the challenges of designing effective policies to address the multiple ecosystem services affected by agricultural systems and the importance of understanding the multi-dimensional spillover effects of agricultural, energy and environmental policies will be discussed.

Friday, June 3, 2016, at 12 noon ET

Rural community development

Mike Woods, Chair of the Department of Agricultural Economics, Oklahoma State University

The talk will briefly assess contributions made by agricultural economists to enhance the well-being of rural residents through research and outreach. Many models and approaches have been utilized to address issues of economic growth, wealth creation, poverty, and many quality of life factors. Emerging needs related to technology, health care and education will be reviewed. Agricultural economists have much to offer through applied research, extension programming and classroom instruction.

International economics