Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will make $6 million in grants available this year, and up to $30 million total over the next five years as part of a new initiative to provide solutions to agricultural water challenges. The grants will be used to develop management practices, technologies and tools for farmers, ranchers, forest owners and citizens to improve water resource quantity and quality.
"Cutting edge research holds the key to tackling the complex challenges posed by prolonged drought and ensuring the future food security of our nation," said Secretary Vilsack. "These grants will help arm America's farmers and ranchers with the tools and strategies they need to adapt and succeed, and build on ongoing, cross-governmental efforts to provide relief to those impacted by severe drought."
Today's announcement builds on USDA efforts to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners mitigate the impacts of drought, including implementation of the livestock disaster assistance programs provided through the 2014 Farm Bill and $40 million in additional conservation dollars.
NIFA has identified three critical topics that will be funded through this new challenge area: 1) ensuring the water security of surface and ground water needed to produce agricultural goods and services; 2) improving nutrient management in agricultural landscapes focused on nitrogen and phosphorous; and 3) reducing impacts of chemicals and the presence and movement of environmental pathogens in the nation's water supply. NIFA's approach will link social, economic, and behavioral sciences with traditional biophysical sciences and engineering to address regional scale issues with shared hydrological processes, and meteorological and basin characteristics.
NIFA is expected to make $30 million available over the next five years for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) water challenge area, with the expectation that the new projects awarded this fiscal year would receive additional funding in the following four years. All additional funding is contingent on future congressional appropriations and achievement of project objectives and milestones.
Building on its investment in water research, NIFA will also fund projects through the National Integrated Water Quality Program (NIWQP), which addresses critical water resource issues including water quality protection and water conservation. The RFA for this program is expected to be released in the spring of 2014.
The NIWQP supports research, education and Extension projects and programs that address critical water resource issues in agricultural, rural and urbanizing watersheds. These projects reflect the growing need to combine knowledge from biological and physical sciences with social and economic sciences to address complex water issues.
The NIWQP focuses on addressing water issues at the watershed scale. Projects funded by the NIWQP are outcome-oriented, aiming to increase awareness and change behaviors related to water resource management.
Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future.