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NIFA Overview

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), part of the executive branch of the Federal Government. Congress created NIFA through the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. NIFA replaced the former Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES), which had been in existence since 1994.

NIFA is one of four USDA agencies that make up its Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area. The other three agencies are:


The USDA-REE agencies provide federal leadership in creating and disseminating knowledge spanning the biological, physical, and social sciences related to agricultural research, economic analysis, statistics, extension, and higher education.

NIFA's mission is to lead food and agricultural sciences to create a better future for the Nation and the world by supporting research, education, and extension programs in the Land-Grant University System and other partner organizations. NIFA doesn't perform actual research, education, and extension but rather helps fund it at the state and local level and provides program leadership in these areas. The broad expectation is that NIFA will enhance the stature and impact of food, agricultural, and natural resource sciences and ultimately grow support for agricultural research, education, and extension. 

NIFA's two key mechanisms for accomplishing its mission of "advancing knowledge" are:

  • National program leadership. We help states identify and meet research, extension, and education priorities in areas of public concern that affect agricultural producers, small business owners, youth and families, and others.

  • Federal assistance. We provide annual formula grants to land-grant universities and competitively granted funds to researchers in land-grant and other universities.

NIFA collaborates or has formal working partnerships with many institutions and individuals. Our key partners are the institutions of higher learning making up the Land-Grant University System. However, we also partner with other federal agencies, within and beyond USDA; non-profit associations; professional societies; commodity groups and grower associations; multistate research committees; private industry; citizen groups; foundations; regional centers; the military; task forces; and other groups.

NIFA and its partners focus on critical issues affecting people's daily lives and the nation's future. The advanced research and educational technologies we support empower people and communities to solve problems and improve their lives on the local level.

We respond to quality-of-life problems such as:

  • Improving agricultural productivity
  • Creating new products
  • Protecting animal and plant health
  • Promoting sound human nutrition and health
  • Strengthening children, youth, and families
  • Revitalizing rural American communities

We do this through an extensive network of state, regional, and county extension offices in every U.S. state and territory. These offices have educators and other staff who respond to public inquiries and conduct informal, noncredit workshops and other educational events. You're connected to this system—which is now 90 years old—through your nearest extension office, which provides answers to commonly encountered problems through educational materials (print, video, CD), Web-based information, the telephone, and other means.

With support from more than 600,000 volunteers, 4-H—USDA's 105-year-old youth development program administered through NIFA—engages more than 6.5 million young people every year and teaches them life skills through hands-on learning and leadership activities.

Through all of these activities, NIFA impacts the lives of millions of Americans each day.

Additional NIFA Fact Sheets