USDA pledges $46M to sustainable agriculture research

May 19, 2023

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced plans to invest over $46 million (€41.3m) in the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) programme as part of its ongoing commitment to “transform the country’s agricultural systems”

The SARE programme, which began in 1988, was set up to fund farmer-driven grants and grassroots education programs resulting in climate-smart solutions for farms and ranches.

According to USDA, this significant cash injection will help fund what’s described as the Biden-Harris administration’s strategy to “transform America’s food system” with a greater focus on “more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices. It also brings historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America”. 

In a statement about the recent investment, Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics (REE) said: “Through this investment, SARE will continue to provide competitive grants and education programs that foster farmer-driven innovation to promote climate-smart practices, make sustainable producers more profitable, and improve local economies and the quality of life in rural communities.”

USDA commits

The $46m will be awarded over the next 10 years by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) in four regional SARE host institutions and the National Reporting, Coordinating, and Communications Office (NRCCO).

Recipients of the grants include the University of Minnesota (North Central SARE regional host institution); University of Vermont (Northeast SARE regional host institution); University of Georgia (Southern SARE regional host institution); Montana State University (Western SARE regional host institution); and University of Maryland (NRCCO).  

“Sustainable agriculture is a high priority for NIFA across many of our programs as we seek to provide more profitable farm income, promote environmental stewardship and enhance quality of life for farm families and communities,” said Dionne Toombs, acting director of USDA NIFA. “In the last 35 years, with funding from NIFA, SARE has provided $380 million in grant funding for nearly 8,400 projects serving farmers, growers and rural communities.”

These projects cover a variety of topics, including supporting producers with on-farm renewable energy, pest and weed management, cover crops, high tunnel and session extension, crop rotations, marketing, pollinator health and local and regional food system development.

According to REE, its focus is on agricultural research, education, and extension across the US in a bid to solve societal challenges. NIFA’s role is to invest in initiatives that ensure the long-term viability of agriculture. It is said to apply an integrated approach to ensure discoveries in agriculture-related sciences and technologies reach the people who can put them into practice.

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