The U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing grants totaling more than $30 million to fund 80 research projects aimed at improving food safety, reducing antibiotic resistance in food and increasing the resilience of plants. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the grant awards Wednesday, also saying that President Obama’s 2017 budget proposes investing $700 million for the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). Congress authorized the $700 million in the 2008 farm bill, but only half that amount was appropriated for the research initiative in 2016. The AFRI, established seven years ago, has led to innovations to ensure food safety and address other food-related issues, Vilsack said in a news release. However, it hasn’t ever received even half of the amount established by the 2008 farm bill. USDA has only been able to fund one out of ten research proposals presented. Half of the $30.1 million in grants announced Wednesday are for research of food safety issues. The 35 projects receiving portions of the $15.1 million for food safety research will focus on:
- improved processing technologies;
- effective mitigation strategies for antimicrobial resistance;
- improving food safety; and
- improving food quality.
Another $3.4 million in grants will be used to address antimicrobial resistance throughout the food chain. Since 2009, more than $82 million in food safety research and extension grants has been awarded through AFRI. Established by the 2008 Farm Bill and re-authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) is the nation’s premier competitive, peer-reviewed grants program for fundamental and applied agricultural sciences. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture awards AFRI grants 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. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)