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The Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement and Experimental Program for Stimulating Competitive Research program is designed to help institutions develop competitive research, education and extension/outreach programs in high-priority areas of national need in agriculture, food, and environmental sciences. Strengthening Awards consist of Sabbatical Grants, Equipment Grants, Seed Grants, and Strengthening Standard and coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP) Grants. Ten percent of the AFRI budget is set aside for strengthening awards and pre- and postdoctoral fellowships grants.

Sabbatical Grants, Equipment Grants, Seed Grants, and Strengthening Standard and Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP) Grants are available during each funding cycle to ensure that researchers at institutions and states that are underrepresented in terms of Federal research, education, and/or extension funding receive a portion of AFRI funds. Strengthening grants are limited to (1) small and mid-sized or minority-serving degree-granting institutions that previously had limited institutional success for receiving Federal funds or (2) State Agricultural Experiment Stations or degree-granting institutions eligible for USDA Experimental Program for Stimulating Competitive Research (EPSCoR) funding and are eligible for reserved strengthening funds for research, education, extension, and integrated project grants. When determining eligibility for these grant types, the following definitions apply:

  • Small and mid-sized institutions are academic institutions with a current total enrollment of 17,500 or less including graduate and undergraduate and full- and part-time students.

  • Minority-serving institutions are academic institutions whose enrollment of a single minority group or a combination of minority groups exceeds 50 percent of the total enrollment, including graduate and undergraduate as well as full- and part-time students.

  • Limited institutional success means institutions that are not among the most successful universities and colleges for receiving Federal funds for science and engineering research.

  • Every year, NIFA determines the states that are eligible for USDA EPSCoR funding. This list includes states having a funding level no higher than the 38th percentile of all states based on a 3-year rolling average of AFRI, excluding FASE Strengthening funds granted to EPSCoR states and small-mid-sized and minority-serving degree-granting institutions.

For FY 2014, the following states meet the requirements for this category:  

FY 2014 USDA EPSCoR States



South Carolina



South Dakota


New Hampshire



New Mexico



North Dakota





Rhode Island



  • Other entities eligible for USDA EPSCoR funds in FY 2014 include the following United States commonwealths, territories, possessions and their successors, and the District of Columbia:

American Samoa
Northern Mariana Islands
District of Columbia
Puerto Rico
Virgin Islands of the U.S.


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