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Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) - Sustainable Agricultural Systems

Grants to USA IHEs, Agencies, Research Centers, and
Individuals to Promote Sustainability in Agriculture

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Funding Source:

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United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

LOI Date:


Deadline Date:

07/01/21 5:00 PM ET Receipt - Deadline for A9211 Sustainable Agricultural Systems Program Evaluation Applications Only.


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Grants to USA IHEs, research foundations and institutions, private corporations and organizations, individuals, and agencies to promote sustainability in agriculture. Applicants must submit a letter of intent and complete required registrations prior to applying. Funding is intended to support project implementation as well as the evaluation of past programs.

The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) is USDA’s flagship competitive grant program that provides funding for fundamental and applied research, education, and extension projects in the food and agricultural sciences. Within AFRI, the longterm purpose of this Sustainable Agricultural Systems (SAS) Request for Applications (RFA) is to help transform the U.S. food and agricultural system to increase agricultural production by 40% in sustainable ways as we approach a world population of 10 billion by 2050, and to do so in the context of economic, societal, and environmental attributes of sustainability

In FY 2021, applications are solicited under the following two Program Area Priorities:

1. Sustainable Agricultural Systems:

The purpose of the SAS Program Area is to promote the sustainable supply of abundant, affordable, safe, nutritious, and accessible food and other agricultural products, while enhancing economic opportunities and improving the long-term health and well-being of Americans. The USDA Science Blueprint provides a strategic framework for leadership and direction in advancing USDA’s scientific mission through 2025. Four of its overarching themes for research, education, and economics are used in this RFA, which solicits applications for projects focused on:

  1. Sustainable agricultural intensification;
  2. Agricultural climate adaptation;
  3. Value-added innovation; and/or
  4. Food and nutrition translation.

This RFA is soliciting creative and visionary project applications developed by transdisciplinary teams that integrate research, education, and extension activities and effectively use a systems approach to promote convergence of science and technology to solve challenges to current and future food and agricultural production systems. Economic sustainability of the food systems is an overarching priority for the projects funded in response to this RFA. The RFA also encourages projects that use genome design, prescriptive interventions, artificial intelligence and data, systems management, and/or automation for providing solutions in the topic areas of focus.

For additional details on program priorities, see:

2. Sustainable Agricultural Systems Program Evaluation

Program Area Priority – The primary goal of this program area priority is to develop a synthesis and assessment of USDA NIFA’s investments in the Sustainable Agricultural Systems (SAS) program from FY 2018 continuing through FY 2024. This priority calls for proposals to provide a programmatic review of the SAS projects, to include impacts, assessment and evaluation of this Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP) program in relation to the program goals, the USDA Science Blueprint, the USDA Strategic Goals, and the USDA Agriculture Innovation Agenda. The project should provide an assessment of impacts of the SAS program, a roadmap for future SAS priorities, and education programming to support best practices for SAS project management. The successful application is expected to develop novel methods for assessing projects of this type and scale. 

For additional details, see:

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 183691

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Number of Grants:

Sustainable Agricultural Systems: This program area anticipates making approximately fifteen new awards; Program Evaluation: This program area anticipates making up to one award.

Estimated Size of Grant:

Sustainable Agricultural Systems: Proposed Coordinated Agricultural Projects must not exceed $10 million total per project.

Sustainable Agricultural Systems Program Evaluation: Proposed projects must not exceed $1 million total per project.

Term of Contract:

The funds will be awarded through a grant for performance periods of up to five years.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Eligible Applicants:

Applications may only be submitted by eligible entities. Eligibility is linked to the project type as specified below. Note that this RFA lists the general eligibility requirements for AFRI but only integrated and applicable FASE grants are relevant for this RFA.

1. Research, Education or Extension Projects

Eligible applicants for single-function Research, Education 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.

2. Integrated Projects

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

For item a) under Integrated Projects, the terms "college" and "university" mean an educational institution in any state which i) admits as regular students only persons having a certificate of graduation from a school providing secondary education, or the recognized equivalent of such a certificate; ii) is legally authorized within such state to provide a program of education beyond secondary education; iii) provides an educational program for which a bachelor’s degree or any other higher degree is awarded; iv) is a public or other nonprofit institution; and v) is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association. A research foundation maintained by a college or university is eligible to receive an award under this program.

3. Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement Grants

Part II, C.2 contains the eligibility details for Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) Grants. Note that under the FASE program, only Strengthening Coordinated Agricultural Project Grants are solicited in this RFA.

Applicants must respond to the Program Area priorities and deadlines found in Part I, C. of this RFA. Grant recipients may subcontract to organizations not eligible to apply provided such organizations are necessary for the conduct of the project. Failure to meet an eligibility criterion by the application deadline may result in the application being excluded from consideration or, even though an application may be reviewed, will preclude NIFA from making an award (see Part III B).

Request for Determination of Status:

1. Minority–Serving Institution

If an institution can be considered a minority-serving institution and wishes to be considered for a Strengthening Grant (see Part II, C. 2), but does not serve one or more of the groups identified as a minority (see definition Part VIII, D), the applicant must submit documentation supporting the request.

2. Multi-Campus Institution

All institutions grouped under one main campus as listed in Table 1 following Part VIII, unless located in an Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) state (listed in Part II, C. 2), are excluded from eligibility for all strengthening funds. However, if any campus within a multi-campus listing can provide information demonstrating that it is administratively independent or has an independent accreditation, then the institution may petition for an exemption to this rule and request eligibility for strengthening funds.

Pre-Application Information:

2021 Review Cycle Deadlines:

A9201 Sustainable Agricultural Systems
- Letter of Intent Deadline – January 7, 2021
- Application Deadline – April 1, 2021

A9211 Sustainable Agricultural Systems Program Evaluation
- Letter of Intent Deadline – March 4, 2021
- Application Deadline – July 1, 2021

All LOIs and applications must be received by 5 p.m. EST on the deadline date.

New Users of Prior to preparing an application, it is recommended that the Project Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) first contact an AR to determine if the organization is prepared to submit electronic applications through If not (e.g., the institution/organization is new to the electronic grant application process through, then the one-time registration process must be completed PRIOR to submitting an application. It can take as long as two weeks to complete the registration process so it is critical to begin as soon as possible. In such situations, the AR should go to “Register,” in the top right corner of the web page (or go to, for information on registering the institution/organization with

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Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Sustainable Agricultural Systems Program Area Contacts – Dr. Mathieu Ngouajio and Dr. Megan O'Rourke.

Sustainable Agricultural Systems Program Evaluation Program Area Contacts – Dr. Robbin Shoemaker and Dr. Ann Stapleton

Telephone: (816) 926-1604

CFDA Number:


Funding or Pin Number:


URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming

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