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NEWS RELEASE

USDA Awards $120 Million for Advancing Food and Ag Systems

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that 96 colleges and universities will receive grant awards totaling approximately $120 million for research on emerging agricultural issues such as future food production, food nutrition, consumer choices for food, environmental quality, natural resource management and farm income. Under the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems (IFAFS) program, USDA also worked with the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on two joint programs.

Two new program areas for 2001 are the multidisciplinary graduate education and training initiative, supporting training and leadership skills vital for future agricultural scientists, with grants totaling $7.4 million. Grants totaling $1.9 million will address critical and emerging needs, bolstering plant protection and developing new technology to deal with bovine spongiform encephalitus or mad-cow disease.

Priority areas include agricultural genomics, bioinformatics, farm efficiency and productivity. Ten institutions will share more than $15.5 million to study gene mapping for a variety of plants and animals including loblolly pines, certain fruit, vegetable and grain crops, disease resistance in shrimp and poultry, and promoting the well-being and milk quality in cattle. In addition, $9.3 million has been awarded jointly with the National Science Foundation for microbial sequencing.

In the bioinformatics area, two grants totaling $745,000 were awarded to develop compatible computerized formats by which mapping sequencing from many different researchers can be accessed or shared via the web or other methods.

On the farm efficiency and productivity grant list, researchers will spend more than $48 million to study integrated pest management education for the small and limited resource farmer, how to enhance the management, efficiency and profitability of small and mid-sized dairy farmers and small and economically disadvantaged livestock family farms among more than 38 research projects.

The program will continue to fund such cutting-edge issues as biotechnology and precision agriculture.

Six grants totaling $7.4 million will focus on the human health affects and ecological risks of biotechnology such as consumer acceptance of biotechnology foods in the U.S., and developing an animal model to predict potential allergens of genetically modified foods.

Under the precision agriculture category, in a joint program with NASA, $7.6 million will be used to explore field testing a sensor-based applicator for nitrogen and phosphorus fertilization, the use of precision technologies for cotton production in the mid-southern U.S., how tree fruit producers can remain competitive using precision agriculture, and other projects.

Nine states will receive over $5 million from the program --California, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas. Over 600 scientists and educators will receive funding, many of them seeking international assistance from Australia, Columbia, Germany, Israel, Mexico, the Philippines, and Spain.