The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced three grants designed to boost food security by minimizing livestock losses to insects and diseases. The awards to support research, education, and Extension efforts were made through NIFA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which is authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

"These grants will allow scientists to discover the new tools and technologies necessary to deal with the threats insects and pathogens pose to livestock production in our nation, which ultimately benefit consumers through abundant, affordable food." said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director.

NIFA made the awards through the AFRI Food Security challenge area, which seeks to increase sustainable food production. Priority was given to projects that will improve prevention, early detection, rapid diagnosis, or recovery from new, foreign, or emerging diseases or arthropods (like fleas and ticks) that have the potential to cause major impacts on food security. NIFA will make additional awards later this spring through the AFRI Food Security challenge area that focus on minimizing crop losses by arthropods and diseases.

The fiscal year 2014 awards are:

Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Miss., $47,464 – To create a portable computer and communication center for training veterinary students, graduate students, practicing veterinarians, and other food production stakeholders to use system dynamics modeling, other forms of stochastic and deterministic modeling and health data management or analysis software to protect livestock from pests and disease.

Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, $1,460,000 - Develop knowledge-based integrated approaches to detect, control, and prevent poultry respiratory diseases in the United States through new and improved diagnostic tools, vaccines, and novel preventive measures.

University of Vermont, Burlington, Vt., $1,480,000 - Reduce the impact of new, emerging and foreign pests and diseases to domestic production of cattle, swine and small ruminant foods and byproducts.

Today's grants include research on alternatives to antimicrobials, such as improved vaccines, which could lead to a decrease in antimicrobial use. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been an area of focus during the past two decades as USDA plays a dual role in protecting animal agriculture and public health. Recognizing AMR as a potential and serious threat, USDA's AMR activities focus on surveillance; research and development; and education, extension, and outreach.

The purpose of AFRI is to support research, education, and Extension work by awarding grants that address key problems of national, regional, and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of food and agriculture. AFRI is NIFA's flagship competitive grant program authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill and supports work in six priority areas: 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; and 6) agriculture economics and rural communities.

The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and Extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. For more information, visit www.nifa.usda.gov.