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Specialty Crop Research Initiative

Grants to USA Agencies, IHEs, Organizations, Corporations,
and Individuals for Research on Specialty Crops

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Funding Source:

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U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

Deadline Date:

12/08/17 5:00 PM ET Receipt


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Grants to USA government agencies, IHEs, research institutions, private organizations and corporations, cooperative extension services, and individuals to address critical needs within the specialty crop industry. Funding may support research and extension addressing key challenges in sustaining all components of food and agriculture, including conventional and organic food production systems. Grantees may address issues of national, regional, and multi-state importance.

Except for Research and Extension Planning Projects, the SCRI program only considers projects that integrate research and extension activities.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to propose a unique approach to solving problems facing the specialty crop industry using a systems approach:

A systems approach is any process of estimating or inferring how local policies, actions, or changes influence the state of the neighboring universe. It is a framework that is based on the belief that the component parts of a system can best be understood in the context of relationships with each other and with other systems, rather than in isolation. The only way to fully understand why a problem or element occurs and persists is to understand the part in relation to the whole.

The philosophy of the SCRI program is that truly effective, long-term solutions to specialty crop industry challenges can best be achieved by understanding and treating those problems as complex systems of many interacting components. This perspective requires projects that are larger in scope and complexity, and that demand more resources than have traditionally been allocated to individual research and extension projects.

In doing so, projects should focus on entire primary systems, or on areas where two or more primary systems overlap. For the purpose of this announcement, a primary system is one of the three main sectors of the specialty crop industry depicted in the graphic below: the production system; the processing and distribution system; and the consumer and marketing system. Meeting the challenges faced by these industries can best be handled by considering the full breadth of system components (see example components listed for each primary system), rather than treating each component in isolation and ignoring important interactions and conflicts among components that may reduce the viability of component-specific solutions in the long term.

Specialty crops are defined in law as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. USDA has developed a more detailed description of specialty crops that is now in use by all USDA agencies. Collectively, these crops face many challenges. The SCRI program seeks to address these challenges by funding systems-based, trans-disciplinary approaches.

PLEASE NOTE: For purposes of the SCRI program, the term trans-disciplinary is defined as a multi-disciplinary approach that brings biological and physical scientists together with economists and social scientists to address challenges in a holistic manner.

It is anticipated that successful applications will:
1. Engage stakeholders in collaborative ways to identify those priorities of greatest need;
2. Bring together multi-state, multi-institutional teams of biological, physical, and social scientists to develop strategies and actions emphasizing systems-based, trans- disciplinary approaches for meeting the identified priorities;
3. Address priorities through research and extension;
4. Present plans for documenting the impacts of funded applications that include stakeholder involvement; and
5. Include explicit mechanisms to communicate results to producers and the public.

The SCRI program has five legislatively mandated focus areas, which are:

1. Research in plant breeding, genetics, genomics, and other methods to improve crop characteristics, such as:
a. product, taste, quality, and appearance;
b. environmental responses and tolerances;
c. nutrient management, including plant nutrient uptake efficiency;
d. pest and disease management, including resistance to pests and diseases resulting
in reduced application management strategies; and e. enhanced phytonutrient content.

2. Efforts to identify and address threats from pests and diseases, including threats to specialty crop pollinators;

3. Efforts to improve production efficiency, handling and processing, productivity, and profitability over the long term (including specialty crop policy and marketing);

4. New innovations and technology, including improved mechanization and technologies that delay or inhibit ripening; and

5. Methods to prevent, detect, monitor, control, and respond to potential food safety hazards in the production and processing of specialty crops, including fresh produce.

NIFA will address all focus areas by funding projects that emphasize systems-based, trans- disciplinary approaches. In addition, for the purposes of this program, NIFA interprets new innovations and technology to include, among other things, automation, robotics, sensor technology, and precision agriculture for specialty crops. NIFA also recognizes the importance of specialty crops in enhancing human nutrition and health.

In an increasingly interconnected world, scientific advances have global importance, and may require information and cooperation from beyond the borders. To address critical United States specialty crop issues, priorities, or problems through the integration of research and extension activities, applicants are encouraged to include international partnerships or engagement in proposals, as appropriate. Any proposed activity (e.g., partnerships, exchanges, training, and/or travel), must support the domestic objectives of SCRI. Applicants must clearly describe and demonstrate how international activities proposed in applications submitted to SCRI will contribute to advances in U.S. specialty crop industries.

When proposing international activities, applicants must describe the metrics that will be used for reporting beneficial outputs and outcomes. These metrics should reflect how the proposed international collaboration adds value to achieving the SCRI program’s objectives by introducing innovative technologies/approaches, promoting synergistic science, addressing issues of mutual concern, or other means.

The Specialty Crop Research Initiative strongly encourages applicants to develop partnerships that include collaboration with: (1) small- or mid-sized, accredited colleges and universities, and/or (2) 1890 land-grant institutions, 1994 land-grant institutions, Hispanic-serving institutions, and/or other institutions that serve high-risk, under-served, or hard-to-reach audiences.

Please note: The intent of this program is not to fund start-up businesses, however a small business can apply. Projects must address only scientific research and extension activities. A small business must not propose technical assistance, demonstration projects, classified research, or financial assistance to start, create, or expand a company or submit patent applications.

The SCRI program offers the following three project types in FY 2018. Applicants should decide which project type is best suited to the objectives of their research and extension project and develop a preliminary budget that fits the objectives. Applicants are discouraged from developing a project (and selecting a project type) based on a budget request target.

1. Standard Research and Extension Projects (SREPs)

SREP awards will support targeted problem-solving efforts that contribute to the overall sustainability of a primary system or one of its components, and that would not otherwise qualify in scope and effort for support as a CAP. Applications should bring together both research and extension components of the agricultural knowledge system around a problem area or activity.

For each SREP award, there is an expectation that an advisory panel will be formed to inform the project throughout its life, including the identification and prioritization of research and extension objectives. SREPs represent the “focused science and application studies” portion of the systems diagram under Part I, B found in the NOFO.

2. Coordinated Agricultural Projects (CAPs)

CAPs will be awarded to consortia or groups of qualified applicants to address multiple components of a primary system, an entire primary system or problems that cut across primary systems, with the expectation that the project will make significant contributions to the sustainability of the system or system component.

CAP applications are expected to demonstrate coherent and complementary integrated activities with the ultimate goal of developing a strategy or solution that could be implemented for specialty crops. Applications are expected to take advantage of recent advances in biological, physical, and social and economic sciences and to translate basic discoveries and knowledge to practical applications. Applications are expected to demonstrate the potential to develop a national strategy or solution as an ultimate goal.

This would include the intent to promote collaboration, open communication, the exchange of information and development of resources that accelerate the application of scientific discovery and technology to address the needs of various specialty crop industries. Such a national CAP should aim to reduce duplication of efforts and integrate activities among individuals, institutions, states, and regions.

3. Research and Extension Planning Projects

Research and Extension Planning Projects are intended to support two types of activities, either to: (1) provide assistance to applicants in the development of quality future SREP or CAP proposals (grant planning) or (2) provide assistance to consumer, producer, or industry groups for developing strategic research and extension plans—including goals, objectives, priorities, etc. (strategic planning). The expectation is that developed “plans” could provide the relevance bases for future SCRI grant applications.

Priority will be given to applicants who can: (1) demonstrate limited resources for either submitting large grant applications or for supporting strategic planning activities on their own, (2) articulate benefits to be accrued from formal planning activities, and (3) provide evidence of a high likelihood that quality future applications would be submitted for SCRI projects (desired for grant planning) or would result in a publicly available strategic plan, which could be used to support a variety of industry-relevant research and extension activities, including development of one or more future SCRI grant applications (desired for strategic planning).

Research and Extension Planning Project grants do not support preliminary research. However, support for stakeholder survey activities may be requested, where appropriate and necessary.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 182312

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Estimated Size of Grant:

It is anticipated that most funded SREPs/CAPS for FY 2018 will be close to the historical median over the project period.

Standard Research and Extension Projects (SREPs):
-Budget: Normally, Federal funds will not exceed $1,000,000 per year. Requests less than $250,000 per project are discouraged.
-Mean award: $1,980,070
-Median award: $1,846,428
-Minimum award: $226,905
-Maximum award: $6,010,232

Coordinated Agricultural Projects (CAPs):
-Budget: Normally, Federal funds will not exceed $2,000,000 per year.
-Mean award: $5,008,679 vi. Median award: $4,438,003
-Minimum award: $1,912,178
-Maximum award: $10,898,772

Research and Extension Planning Projects
-Budget: Federal funds up to $50,000 per project

Term of Contract:

Standard Research and Extension Projects (SREPs): The project period us up to four years.

Coordinated Agricultural Projects (CAPs): The project period is up to four years.

Research and Extension Planning Projects: The project period is one year.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Pre-Applications may only be submitted by Federal agencies, national laboratories, colleges and universities, research institutions and organizations, private organizations or corporations, State Agricultural Experiment Stations, Cooperative Extension Services, individuals, or groups consisting of two or more of these entities.

Centers of Excellence:

Pursuant to Section 7214 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Pub. L. 113-79), beginning in Fiscal Year 2015, for applicable competitive research and extension programs, NIFA will recognize and provide priority in the receipt of funding to applications from “centers of excellence” that carry out research, extension, and education activities that relate to the food and agricultural sciences. NIFA held listening sessions in July 2014 and accepted written comments from stakeholders to inform NIFA’s implementation of the COE provision. Information from the webinars and a summary of the input are available on NIFA’s website at

A COE is composed of one or more of the following entities that provide financial or in-kind support to the COE.

(A) State agricultural experiment stations;
(B) Colleges and universities;
(C) University research foundations;
(D) Other research institutions and organizations;
(E) Federal agencies;
(F) National laboratories;
(G) Private organizations, foundations, or corporations;
(H) Individuals; or
(I) Any group consisting of two or more of the entities described in (A) through (H).

COE designation is available only to CAP and SREP applicants.

Pre-Application Information:

A 100% match is required. The recipient of an award from the SCRI program must provide funds, in-kind contributions, or a combination of both, from sources other than funds provided through such grant in an amount that is at least equal to the amount awarded by NIFA unless one of the exemptions described herein is applicable.

Pre-Applications must be received by 5:00 PM Eastern Time on December 8, 2017.

Industry representatives for each specialty crop sector will decide which pre-applications should be invited to submit full applications. Details of the full-application process will be provided to invitees in a separate Request for Applications (RFA).

Prior to preparing an application, it is recommended that the Project Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) first contact an Authorized Representative (AR, also referred to as Authorized Organizational Representative or AOR) 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 2 weeks to complete the registration process so it is critical to begin as soon as possible.

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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.

Programmatic Contact:

Tom Bewick, National Program Leader
P: (202) 401-3356
F: (202) 401-4888

Division of Plant Systems Production
Institute of Food Production and Sustainability
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250-2240

Administrative/Business Contact:

Susan Bowman, Awards Management Division
(202) 401-4324

Adriene Woodin, Awards Management Division
(202) 401-4320

National Institute of Food and Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 202005-2271

CFDA Number:


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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