The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) is the nation’s leading competitive grants program for agricultural sciences. The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) established the AFRI program in 2008 with authorization in the Farm Bill. AFRI was envisioned as the primary source of peer-reviewed, competitively awarded agricultural research grants. The program is an important source of federal research funding and the largest to address the many challenges confronting agriculture today with a process that is open to researchers from any institution. 

How did AFRI begin? 

AFRI was established by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill and was reauthorized in the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills. It is overseen by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

What does AFRI do? 

NIFA provides AFRI grants to support research, education and extension activities in six Farm Bill priority areas:

  • Plant Health and Production and Plant Products;
  • Animal Health and Production and Animal Products;
  • Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health;
  • Bioenergy, Natural resources, and Environment;
  • Agriculture Systems and Technology;
  • and Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities.

How does AFRI award grants? 

AFRI funding is based on merit and proposals are rigorously peer-reviewed, similar to how the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awards research grants. Each grant program has a unique request for applications that highlights requirements for the funding opportunity. View current AFRI RFAs to learn more. 

Who is eligible for AFRI grants? 

AFRI may award grants to state agricultural experiment stations; colleges and universities; university research foundations; other research institutions and organizations; federal agencies; national laboratories; private organizations or corporations; individuals; or any group consisting of two or more of the aforementioned entities. 

AFRI-funded integrated projects must include at least two of the three functions of agriculture knowledge – research, education, and extension – to ensure delivery of science-based knowledge to people, allowing them to make informed practical decisions.  

What has AFRI accomplished? 

To date, AFRI has funded 4,363 projects for a combined total of $2.25 billion invested in food and agriculture research. See our story bank for examples of projects funded by the AFRI program. 

How is AFRI funded? 

Within the Farm Bill, there are “titles” covering specific topics, including research. The 2018 Farm Bill’s “Research Title” authorizes the extramural research programs overseen through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). These programs provide the “capacity” and “competitive” research grants to universities (and other institutions) that enable our food system to thrive.

The Farm Bill funds research in two ways. In some cases, the legislation provides direct - or “mandatory” - funding for programs to receive on an annual basis (e.g. SCRI, OREI) or as a lump sum (e.g. FFAR). In most cases, however, the Farm Bill sets – or “authorizes” – a maximum amount of “discretionary” funding that a program can receive. The actual amount of “discretionary” funding these programs receive is determined annually through congressional legislation based on recommendations from the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

In the 2018 Farm Bill, AFRI is authorized at $700 million a year. The 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act funds AFRI at $400 million, which is $300 less than it is authorized to receive in the current Farm Bill. 

Why Does SoAR Support AFRI? 

SoAR believes that competitive research is key to a thriving agricultural system. We need the best researchers working on our toughest challenges if we are going to feed the world’s growing population while remaining a leader in agriculture. AFRI is the premier public funding source for food and agriculture grants that will impact the lives of producers and consumers. Our goal is to increase funding for all food and agricultural research, and for AFRI to reach its $700 million annual authorization level. 

Learn more about AFRI on the USDA NIFA website