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The Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) grants are designed to help institutions develop competitive projects, and to attract new scientists and educators into careers in high-priority areas of national need in agriculture, food, and environmental sciences. FASE Grants consist of New Investigator Grants, Pre- and Postdoctoral Fellowship Grants, and Strengthening Grants. Strengthening Grants are further divided into Sabbatical Grants, Equipment Grants, Seed Grants, Strengthening Standard Grants, Strengthening CAP (Coordinated Agricultural Project) Grants and Strengthening Conference Grants. Ten percent of AFRI funding is set aside for Strengthening Grants and Pre- and Postdoctoral Fellowship Grants.


NIFA periodically offers webinars to EPSCoR states on funding opportunities and other programmatic information.

Strengthening Grant Eligibility

Strengthening 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 to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) funding. A flow chart showing strengthening grant eligibility is included in each AFRI Request for Applications

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 accredited 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 and 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. A list of successful institutions is provided in Table 1 of each AFRI RFA.
  • 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 funding levels, excluding FASE Strengthening funds granted to EPSCoR states and small-mid-sized and minority-serving degree-granting institutions.


FY 2015:

This is the seventh year of the AFRI program and while significant FY 2014 funds are unobligated, the eligibility determinations are based on the data obtained from grants made through the AFRI program from 2011 through 2013. For FY 2015, the following States meet the requirements for this category:

FY 2015 USDA EPSCoR States



South Carolina



South Dakota





New Hampshire



New Mexico



North Dakota



Rhode Island



Other entities eligible for USDA EPSCoR funds in FY 2015 include the following United States commonwealths, territories, possessions and their successors, and the District of Columbia:

Other Entities eligible for USDA EPSCoR Funds

American Samoa

Northern Mariana Islands

District of Columbia

Puerto Rico


Virgin Islands of the U.S.



Since NIFA determines EPSCoR state eligibility every year, a number of states will join or leave (“graduate from”) the 19-state list every year. The chart shows the history of each EPSCoR state’s eligibility status in the past 10 years.

Several other federal agencies also provide funding to EPSCoR states. The EPSCoR program originated in the National Science Foundation (NSF), which provides funding to the eligible states’ EPSCoR committees (NSF EPSCoR). By contrast, NIFA provides EPSCoR funding directly to individual investigators in those states. In addition, NIFA’s EPSCoR funding mechanism is embedded in the FASE program as noted above (click here to for a graphic illustration of FASE and EPSCoR funding). For these reasons, NIFA is said to have an EPSCoR-like program. NIFA is a member of the EPSCoR Interagency Coordinating Committee (EICC) headed by NSF. The EICC was established in FY 1992 to improve coordination among and between the federal agencies in implementing EPSCoR and EPSCoR-like programs consistent with the policies of those agencies.

NIFA FASE/EPSCoR team members:

Nancy Cavallaro (co-chair)
Sharon Lumpkin (co-chair)
Gabrielle Armstrong
Effie Baldwin
R. Shawn Bennett
Bart Hewitt
Peter Johnson
Pushpa Kathir
Melanie Krizmanich
Liang-Shiou Lin
Luis Tupas



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