USDA Invests $15.7 Million for Research to Improve Livestock and Aquaculture

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced 40 grants totaling more than $15.7 million for agricultural research on the production of beef, dairy, poultry, pork, and fish that people consume every day. The funding is made possible through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.
“To ensure a healthy and safe food supply, we need innovations,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “NIFA investments help foster the discovery and translation of new knowledge into science-based management practices to help America’s agricultural enterprises thrive and meet growing consumer demand.”

The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative is America’s flagship competitive grants program for foundational and translational research, education, and extension projects in the food and agricultural sciences. The AFRI Foundational program supports research in several priority areas, including animal breeding, reproduction, nutrition and growth. These grants help improve the quality and efficiency of animal production in a variety of ways, such as through the creation of genetic databases, enhanced breeding methods, and research on the cellular, molecular, genetic, or whole-animal aspects of reproduction, nutrition, growth, and lactation.

Information on the fiscal year of 2016 grants and projects is available on the NIFA website.

Among the FY16 projects, a grant to Cornell University will investigate how microRNA molecules help regulate genes involved in milk production in dairy cows.

Past grants include a University of Maine project that may help bolster the New England salmon farming industry, which has declined substantially since 2000, primarily due to a 35 percent decrease in fertilized egg survival. The research is documenting reproductive hormone patterns of North American Atlantic salmon and collecting tissue samples for future studies on embryo mortality. Another project by Recombinetics, Inc., is developing genome editing tools for simultaneously altering multiple genes to improve livestock breeding. The resulting data may help decision-makers gauge the safety and efficacy of these gene editing tools in food animal production.