NAWG Chief Executive Officer Dana Peterson presented wheat research priorities to USDA officials this week at a stakeholder workshop held by the new National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
The meeting was the first of its kind since 2007 and gave commodity groups and others representing agricultural producers a chance to hear from agency officials about their vision for the Institute and discuss specific research priorities.
Peterson’s presentation focused on wheat priorities set by NAWG and the National Wheat Improvement Committee, an organization of wheat researchers; Ug99 and its impact on food security; and the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium’s efforts. Jane DeMarchi, director of government relations at the North American Millers’ Association, also spoke on behalf of several wheat priorities during her presentation.
NIFA was created in the 2008 Farm Bill to be an agriculture research body similar to the National Institutes of Health and to replace the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES). A cornerstone of the new agency is AFRI, a competitive grants program which was funded at $262.4 million for FY2010. NIFA released information about its request for application process for AFRI’s FY2010 allocation in March, seeking proposals that fall into five “societal challenge areas” including childhood obesity prevention, climate change, food safety, global food security and sustainable bioenergy.
Department officials at the meeting this week made it clear that they have a growing focus on competitive grants, with an emphasis on cereal crops in this fiscal year, and encouraged stakeholders in attendance to consider how their industries’ projects will fit into the broad categories defined in the request for application announcement and a competitive grant system in general.
AFRI is authorized to receive up to $700 million per year in federal funding, and NAWG continues work with coalition partners to increase the share of appropriated dollars going to the program in coming years.