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NIFA Glossary

Following is a glossary of terms used on a continuing basis by staff within USDA generally, and NIFA and its partners, specifically. This is a "living list," so if you have acronyms or terms you'd like to see included, please send them to webcomments.

AIHEC - American Indian Higher Education Consortium: Professional association of tribal colleges in the United States and Canada. AIHEC's mission supports the work of these colleges and the national movement for tribal self-determination.

AITC - Agriculture [Ag] In the Classroom: Grassroots program carried out in each state and coordinated by USDA to help students gain a greater awareness of the role of agriculture in the economy and society, so that they may become citizens who support wise agricultural policies.

AMS - Agricultural Marketing Service: USDA agency provides standardization, grading and market news for specific commodities, and oversees marketing agreements and orders.

ANREP - Association of Natural Resources Extension Professionals: Increases the communication, cooperation, and networking among the diverse professionals in the field of extension.

APHIS - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: USDA agency provides leadership to ensure the health and care of animals and plants.

APLU - The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities: A non-profit association of public research universities, land-grant institutions, and state university systems with member campuses in all 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. The association is governed by a Chair and a Board of Directors elected from the member universities and university systems. President Peter McPherson directs a staff of about 45 at the national office in Washington, D.C.

ARD - Association of Research Directors: Official representative body of the agriculture research administrators at the 1890 land-grant universities.

AREERA - Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998: Legislation signed into law on June 23, 1998, which reforms, extends, or eliminates certain agricultural research, education, and extension programs.

ARS - Agricultural Research Service: USDA agency that is primarily responsible for the Department's in-house research.

CAP (Coordinated Agricultural Project): This is a type of National Research Initiative (NRI) award introduced in FY 2004. Applications for CAP awards are solicited through a very limited number of NRI programs. CAP awards support large-scale multimillion dollar projects to promote collaboration, open communication, and the exchange of information; reduce duplication of effort; and coordinate activities among individuals, institutions, states, and regions. CAP awards may support either research projects or integrated research, education, and extension projects as solicited by the NRI program. CAP participants serve as a team that conducts targeted research or research, education, and extension in response to emerging or priority area(s) of national need. CAP awards are typically made as continuation grants. NIFA uses continuation grants to support a specified level of effort for a predetermined period with a statement of intent to provide additional support at a future date, provided that performance has been satisfactory, appropriations are available for this purpose, and continued support would be in the best interest of the federal government and the public. The NRI Request For Application (RFA) lists programs soliciting CAP applications and contains specific instructions for CAP award application preparation.

Capacity Building: Strengthening and enhancing the quality of teaching and research programs at minority-serving educational institutions to more readily establish them as full partners in the U.S. food and agricultural sciences higher education system.

CARET - Council for Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching: APLU-affiliated national grassroots organization of laypersons from the constituencies served by the land-grant colleges of agriculture. Each state and territory may designate up to three delegates. CARET members work closely with their respective agricultural programs and offer guidance and support for programs in agricultural research, extension, and teaching.

CCC - Commodity Credit Corporation: A federally owned and operated corporation within USDA created to stabilize, support, and protect agricultural prices and farm income through loans, purchases, payments, and other operations.

CES - Cooperative Extension System: National, publicly funded, non-credit educational system that links the educational and research resources and activities of USDA, land-grant institutions in every state, territory, and the District of Columbia, and approximately 3,150 county administrative units. This unique federal, state, local, and tribal college partnership focuses on practical solutions to critical issues affecting people's daily lives.

Conflict of Interest: For NIFA, conflicts of interest largely relate to the grant application review process. In this instance, a reviewer of an application for a NIFA grant is considered to have a conflict of interest (and must be disqualified as a reviewer) if, in relation to the project director or other key personnel listed in the application, the reviewer is or has been:

  • a thesis or postdoctoral advisee/advisor;

  • a co-author on a publication within the past 3 years, including pending publications and submissions;

  • a collaborator on a project within the past 3 years, including current and planned collaborations;

  • in a consulting/financial arrangement/other conflict-of-interest in the past 3 years, including receiving compensation of any type (e.g., money, goods, or services);

  • employed by the same institution, previously employed by the institution within the past 12 months, or considered for employment at the institution;

  • a spouse, child, sibling, parent, close friend or other relationship that might affect his or her judgment, or could be seen as doing so by a reasonable person familiar with the relationship.

NIFA - Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service: USDA agency unites the Department's research, higher education, and extension education and outreach resources. Its mission is to advance knowledge for agriculture, the environment, human health and well being, and communities. A broad spectrum of public and private partnerships, including other USDA agencies, federal and state government departments, nonprofit organizations, and private sector entities strengthens NIFA contributions. NIFA is also the federal partner of the Cooperative Extension System.

CYFAR - Children, Youth, and Families at Risk: Through an annual Congressional appropriation for this initiative, NIFA allocates funding to land-grant university extension services for community-based programs for at-risk children and their families.

CYFERnet - Children, Youth, and Families Education and Research Network: National network of Land-Grant university faculty and county extension educators working to support community-based educational programs for children, youth, parents, and families through program, evaluation, and technology assistance.

EDEN - Extension Disaster Education Network: links Extension educators from across the U.S. and various disciplines via Internet technology, enabling them to use and share resources to reduce the impact of disasters.

EFNEP - Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program: Extension education program designed to assist limited resource audiences in acquiring the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and changed behavior necessary for nutritionally sound diets.

EPSCoR: The Experimental Program for Stimulating Competitive Research (EPSCoR) is an eligibility determinant for the AFRI Strengthening Program, a part of the AFRI Agricultural Research Enhancement Awards (AREA) Program. AFRI EPSCoR improves the research infrastructure and competitiveness of universities and colleges in states that have historically received less AFRI research funding. Every 3 years, the AFRI determines which states are eligible for EPSCoR funding by calculating those states that have had a funding level from the AFRI no higher than the 38th percentile of all states, based on total funding for the previous 3-year period (excluding strengthening set-aside funds).

The goal of AFRI AREA is to help institutions develop competitive research programs and to attract new scientists into careers in high-priority areas of national need in agriculture, food, and environmental sciences. Awards available through the AFRI AREA Strengthening Program are Research Career Enhancement Awards (Sabbatical Awards), Equipment Grants, Seed Grants, and Strengthening Standard Research Project Awards. Eligibility for all strengthening categories except Equipment Grants includes project directors at degree-granting institutions in USDA EPSCoR states, and faculties of small- and mid-sized academic institutions that are not among the most successful universities and colleges for receiving federal funds for science and engineering research. Ten percent of the AFRI research budget is set aside for strengthening awards and postdoctoral fellowships.

ERS - Economic Research Service: USDA agency provides information and analysis on agriculture, food, natural resources, and rural America.

ESP - Epsilon Sigma Phi: Dedicated to fostering standards of excellence in the Cooperative Extension System and developing the extension profession.

Equipment Grants: An equipment grant is a type of strengthening grant supported through the NRI Strengthening Program. Funds are for purchase of one major piece of equipment to strengthen the research capacity of institutions and within the cost range of $10,000-$250,000. The amount requested shall not exceed 50 percent of the cost, or $50,000, whichever less. Eligibility for equipment grants is open to any degree-granting institution that is not among the most successful universities and colleges in receiving federal funds for science and engineering research (the RFA contains a table listing these institutions). Unless waived, it is the responsibility of the project director (PD) to secure the required matching funds with non-federal funds. These awards are not to replace requests for equipment in individual research projects. Rather, they are intended to help fund items of equipment that will upgrade research infrastructure. The NRI RFA contains specific instructions for equipment grant eligibility, restrictions, and application preparation.

FAS - Foreign Agricultural Service: USDA agency represents the diverse interests of U.S. farmers and the food and agricultural sector abroad.

FNS - Food and Nutrition Service: USDA agency administers nutrition assistance programs, with the dual mission of improving the nation's health by getting food to people who need it and strengthening the agricultural economy.

FOIA - Freedom of Information Act: Federal statute which allows any person the right to obtain federal agency records, unless the records (or part of the records) are protected from disclosure by any of the nine exemptions in the law.

FS - Forest Service: USDA agency administers the lands and resources of the National Forest System.

FSA - Farm Service Agency: USDA agency helps farmers conserve land and water resources; provides credit to new or disadvantaged farmers and ranchers; and helps farm operations recover from the effects of disaster.

FSIS - Food Safety and Inspection Service: USDA agency protects consumers by ensuring that meat, poultry, and egg products are safe, wholesome, and labeled accurately.

GIPSA - Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration: USDA agency that facilitates the marketing of livestock, poultry, meat, cereals, oilseeds, and related agricultural products, and promotes fair and competitive trading practices for the overall benefit of consumers and American agriculture.

GPRA - Government Performance and Results Act: Law passed in 1993, which requires that federally funded agencies develop and implement an accountability system based on performance measurement, including setting goals and objectives, and measuring progress toward achieving them.

HSI - Hispanic Serving Institution: Accredited and degree-granting public or private institutions of higher education with at least 25 percent Hispanic enrollment. While not designated as land-grant institutions, HSIs participate in specified USDA programs as authorized by Congress to promote and strengthen the ability of these schools to carry out education, applied research, and community development programs.

IFAFS - Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems: Research, extension, and education competitive grants program to address a number of critical emerging agricultural issues.

Integrated - At NIFA and throughout the Land Grant University System, integrated commonly refers to combining research, education, and extension components in specific projects and programming in general.

IPM - Integrated Pest Management: The control of pests or diseases by using an array of crop production strategies, combined with careful monitoring of insect pests or weed populations and other methods.

JCEP - Joint Council of Extension Professionals: Partnership of professional extension organizations that focuses on strengthening the efforts of the member organizations and promotes communication, cooperation, and professionalism among all extension educators. JCEP is comprised of the president, president-elect, and past president of ANREP, ESP, NACAA, NAE4-HA, and NEAFCS, plus a representative of the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Letter of Intent: As defined by the NRI, a letter of intent is typically a 1-2 page document that describes the objectives, the technical approach(s), and the proposed team members for a proposed project. The letter of intent is submitted directly to the NRI national program leader (NPL) prior to complete application preparation. Several NRI programs now require letters of intent for NRI Standard Research projects, Integrated projects, Standard Strengthening Awards, Postdoctoral Fellowships, and New Investigator applications. A letter of intent typically is not required for NRI Sabbatical Awards, Equipment Grants, Conference Grants, and Seed Grants. A small number of NRI programs, however, require a letter of intent for all project types. The letter of intent is evaluated for suitability to the program and in regard to program needs and scope. Invitations to submit a full application are issued by the NPL. For NRI programs requiring a letter of intent, applications submitted without prior approval of the letter of intent by the NPL are returned without review. The individual program descriptions in the NRI RFA contain specific instructions and information regarding letters of intent.

LGU - Land Grant University: College or university that has been designated by its state legislature or Congress to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. The original mission of these institutions, as set forth in the first Morrill Act, was to teach agriculture, military tactics, and the mechanical arts, as well as classical studies so that members of the working classes could obtain a liberal, practical education.

Multistate Research Activities:

Multistate Research Activities: Much NIFA-sponsored research within the land-grant system is carried out through multistate research activities, authorized by the Hatch Act. They involve research on high-priority topics among the State Agricultural Experiment Stations (SAES) in partnership with NIFA, other research institutions and agencies, and with the Cooperative Extension Service (CES).

NACAA - National Association of County Agricultural Agents: Organization of professional educators that furthers the professional improvement and personal growth of its members, improves communication and cooperation, and enhances the image of extension.

NAE4-HA - National Association of Extension 4-H Agents: Promotes, strengthens, and advocates the 4-H youth development profession.

NAL - National Agricultural Library: A major international source for agriculture and related information and is one of four national libraries in the United States. Part of the Agricultural Research Service.

NAREEEAB - The National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board: Board reviews long- and short-term national policies and priorities relating to agricultural research, extension, education, and economics. Established by the FAIR Act of 1996.

NASS - National Agricultural Statistics Service: USDA agency administers the Department's program for collecting and publishing timely national and state agricultural statistics.

National Program Leader (NPL) - A senior staff job series unique to NIFA. See Program Leadership for more information on the duties and responsibilities of a NIFA NPL. You can also find a listing of all NIFA NPLs by using the position search option in the NIFA Staff Directory Search.

NEAFCS - National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Science: Empowers professionals to educate individuals and families to make informed decisions.

New Investigator: As defined by the NRI, a new investigator is one who is beginning his/her research career, does not have an extensive research publication record, and has less than 5 years postgraduate, career-track research experience. New investigators may apply for NRI New Investigator grants, which are a part of the NRI AREA. To be eligible for an NRI New Investigator Grant, the new investigator may not have received competitively awarded federal research funds with the exception of pre- or postdoctoral research awards or NRI Seed Grants. The NRI RFA contains specific instructions for New Investigator Grant eligibility, restrictions, and application preparation.

NPL: see National Program Leader

NRCS - Natural Resources Conservation Service: USDA agency helps people conserve, maintain, and improve natural resources and the environment.

NRI - National Research Initiative: Competitive research and integrated research/education/extension grants program administered by NIFA.

OBPA - Office of Budget and Program Analysis: USDA office coordinates the preparation of the Department's budget estimates, legislative reports, and regulations.

OC - Office of Communications: USDA office provides leadership, expertise, counsel, and coordination of matters relating to the Department's communications strategies.

REE - Research, Education and Economics: USDA mission area comprised of four agencies: the National Institute of Food and Agriculture; the Agricultural Research Service; the Economic Research Service; and the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

RMA - Risk Management Agency: USDA agency improves the economic stability of agriculture by offering producers a sound system of crop insurance.

RD - Rural Development: USDA agency helps rural individuals, communities, and businesses obtain the financial and technical assistance needed to address their diverse and unique needs.

SAES - State Agriculture Experiment Stations: Structure for federated, yet independent, research institutions in each State and territory to address the location-specific problems of farmers and to build a core of basic scientific knowledge related to agriculture. On March 2, 1887, President Grover Cleveland signed legislation promoting "scientific investigation and experiment respecting the principles and applications of agricultural science" through annual grants to each state and territory to establish agriculture experiment stations under the direction of the land-grant colleges.

SARE - Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program: NIFA program working to increase knowledge about - and help farmers and ranchers adopt - sustainable agriculture. SARE administers competitive grants for research, education, and professional development through four regional programs.

Seed Grants: A Seed Grant is a type of strengthening grant supported through the NRI Strengthening Program. The purpose of a Seed Grant is to provide funds to enable investigators to collect preliminary data in preparation for applying for a Standard Research Grant . These awards are not intended to fund stand-alone research projects, but rather projects that will lead to further research applicable to one of the research areas in the NRI. Seed Grants are limited to a total of $100,000 (including indirect costs) for 2 years and are not renewable . Eligibility for Seed Grants is limited to faculty with appointments at small- and mid-sized degree granting institutions that have had limited institutional success and to faculty with appointments at degree granting institutions eligible for EPSCoR funding. The NRI RFA contains specific instructions for Seed Grant eligibility, restrictions, and application preparation.

SF-424 Research and Related Forms: The SF-424 Research and Related (R&R) is the government-wide form adopted by all Federal research and related (e.g., education and extension) grant-making agencies. The SF-424 R&R replaces numerous agency forms and provides common application requirements across the federal government.

The SF-424 R&R was developed into an application forms package by Grants.gov for electronic submission. Applicants applying to NIFA programs electronically will use these SF-424 R&R forms and the related NIFA-specific forms. These forms are available through the funding opportunity of interest at Grants.gov and must be submitted electronically via Grants.gov.

For more information about submitting a proposal to NIFA, please see our Application Information page.

USDA - United States Department of Agriculture: Third-largest civilian department of the U.S. government. The Department oversees a variety of agencies, government corporations, and other entities that employ more than 100,000 people at more than 15,000 locations in all 50 States and in 80 countries.

1862s - Land-Grant Institutions Established by the Passage of the First Morrill Act (1862): The Morrill Act provided a broad segment of the population with a practical education that had direct relevance to their daily lives.

1890s - 1890 Land-Grant Colleges and Universities, and Tuskegee University: Historically black land-grant colleges and universities. Through the Act of August 30, 1890 (the Second Morrill Act), and several other authorities, these institutions may receive federal funds for agricultural research, extension, and teaching.

1994s - 1994 Land-Grant Colleges and Universities [also referred to as Tribal Colleges]: Native American institutions that received land-grant status in 1994 as a provision in the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act, titled "The Equity in Educational Land-Grant Status Act of 1994."