USDA NIFA Announces COVID-19 Rapid Response Program

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) added a “New COVID-19 Rapid Response” program area priority to its Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) -Foundational and Applied Science Program. The maximum award amount for this program area priority is $1,000,000 per project.  

What is the AFRI—Foundational and Applied Science Program? The purpose of AFRI is to support research, education, and extension work by awarding grants to solve key problems of local, regional, national, and global importance in sustaining conventional, organic, and urban agricultural systems. The AFRI includes seven program areas; the new COVID-19 program area priority is under Crosscutting programs:

  1. Plant health and production and plant products
  2. Animal health and production and animal products
  3. Food safety, nutrition, and health
  4. Bioenergy, natural resources, and environment
  5. Agriculture systems and technology
  6. Agriculture economics and rural communities
  7. Crosscutting programs

For additional information regarding the other AFRI program areas and program area priorities, see the AFRI-Foundational and Applied Science Program Request for Applications link below.

What are the priorities for COVID-19 Rapid Response? This program area priority addresses the need to develop and deploy rapid, reliable, and readily adoptable strategies across the food and agriculture enterprise in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These strategies should mitigate urgent threats from the COVID-19 virus (SARSCoV-2) and ensure the availability of an accessible, safe, nutritious, and abundant food supply. Proposals addressing this priority can be local, regional or national in scope and should employ interdisciplinary teams with the capacity to address the range of problems faced by the entire food and agriculture enterprise, from production to consumption. Funded projects are expected to provide solutions to include tools, techniques, technologies, food supply logistics, innovations, and other practices that can be rapidly adopted by various end-users.

What are the requested project and grant types? The requested project types are: Research, Extension, or Integrated Projects (see AFRI Project Types for more information). The requested grant types are Standard Grants and Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement Grants (FASE) (Strengthening Standard and New Investigator) (see AFRI Grant Types for more information).

Who is eligible to apply? Eligibility is linked to the project and/or grant types as specified below.

Eligible applicants for single-function Research or Extension Projects include: a) State Agricultural Experiment Station; b) colleges and universities (including junior colleges offering associate degrees or higher); c) university research foundations; d) other research institutions and organizations; e) Federal agencies, f) national laboratories; g) private organizations or corporations; h) individuals who are U.S. citizens, nationals, or permanent residents; and i) any group consisting of two or more entities identified in a) through h). Eligible institutions do not include foreign and international organizations.

Eligible applicants for Integrated Projects include: a) colleges and universities; b) 1994 Land-Grant Institutions; and c) Hispanic-serving agricultural colleges and universities.

Eligible applicants for the Strengthening Standard and the New Investigator FASE Grants include: a) Strengthening Standard Grants: eligible applicants 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 Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) funding. b) New Investigator Grants: an individual who is beginning their career, does not have an extensive scientific publication record, and has less than five years postgraduate career-track experience is encouraged to submit an application for a New Investigator Grant for research, education, and/or extension activities. The new investigator may not have received competitively awarded Federal research funds as Project Director (PD) with the exception of pre- or postdoctoral grants or AFRI Seed Grants. Federal funding received by the applicant as Co-PD of previously awarded competitive grants does not count against New Investigator eligibility.

What are eligible project topics and activities? Topics may include, but are not limited to:

1. Health and Security of Livestock

  • Determine susceptibility of livestock to SARS-CoV-2;
  • Develop methods for detection and surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in livestock;
  • Investigate potential transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from humans to livestock and among livestock species;
  • Determine persistence and transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 in animal wastes and biosolids used in production of produce.

2. Food and Food Processing

  • Determine survival of SARS-CoV-2 on different types of foods, food products, food packaging materials, and food manufacturing surfaces as impacted by pH, storage temperature, moisture or water activity, storage conditions;
  • Assess the effect of manufacturing and processing conditions on survival of SARS-CoV2;
  • Measure the transfer rate of SARS-CoV-2 from hands to foods and food contact surfaces; 74
  • Assess effectiveness and efficiency of various disinfectants used in food processing and service industry on survival and transmission of SARS-CoV-2;
  • Develop education materials for food handlers and consumers on SARS-CoV-2 and foods.

3. Well-being of Farm, Food Service Providers, and Rural Americans;

  • Identify impacts of potential risks of, and mitigation strategies for safeguarding the supply chain from SARS-CoV-2;
  • Develop resources to educate and train farm workers and food service providers in preventing spread of SARS-CoV-2 and in mitigating infection and transmission of SARSCoV-2;
  • Provide information and training to farm workers and food service providers to mitigate infection and transmission of SARS-CoV-2;
  • Provide training needs to reduce exposure to, and potential contamination or dispersal of SARS-CoV-2 in food products and throughout the agricultural production system (including storage, processing and transport).

4. Economic Security

  • Develop educational and management strategies to ensure economic security of small-scale producers during and after the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Identify and assess the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the supply chain for food and agricultural products;
  • Initiate the compilation of readily accessible science-based proactive preparedness measures that will mitigate the knowledge gaps for potential and future epidemics and pandemics;
  • Mitigate impacts on agricultural inputs and output markets, e.g., on availability of farm labor and food processing

What kinds of projects will receive highest consideration? The program area seeks applications that:

  • Focus on critical and urgent research, extension, or integrated solutions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on the nation’s food and agricultural system;
  • Provide applicable strategies and knowledge that can be implemented rapidly to minimize or eliminate the impacts of COVID-19 on the food and agriculture system;
  • Provide evidence that the project is aligned to the stated priorities.

What are the funding levels and project duration? The maximum award amount is $1,000,000 total per project (including indirect costs) for project periods up to two years and are not renewable. NIFA anticipates $192.6 million will be available to support program areas in this AFRI RFA for FY 2020. Crosscutting programs, which includes the COVID-19 program area priority, has $21.6 million available for funding. NIFA will expedite application evaluation & awards review to ensure rapid project start-up.

Is there a matching requirement? If the project is an applied Research (see Part VIII, D of RFA) or Integrated Project with an applied research component and is commodity-specific and not of national scope, the grant recipient is required to match the USDA funds awarded on a dollar-for-dollar basis from non-federal sources with cash and/or in-kind contributions. NIFA may waive the matching funds requirement if it is determined that:

  • The results of the project, while of particular benefit to a specific agricultural commodity, are likely to be applicable to agricultural commodities generally; or
  • The project involves a minor commodity, the project deals with scientifically important research, and the grant recipient is unable to satisfy the matching funds requirement.

When is the deadline? Applications must be submitted by Thursday, June 4, 2020 (5:00 p.m. Eastern Time).

The full Request for Applications (RFA) can be found here.

For more information on this grant or how to apply with Morrison’s assistance, please contact the Morrison Grants Team by email at or call us at 530-893-4764.


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