New COVID-19 Rapid Response Program Area for Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)

USDA NIFA recently added a program area to its main Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Foundational and Applied Science Program RFA: Rapid Response to Novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) Impacts Across Food and Agricultural Systems (A1711).

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the nation's food and agricultural systems. Currently, data is needed to reliably guide decision-making that are supported by scientific evidence. 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 (SARS- CoV-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.

This program area priority is designed to rapidly enhance and fill knowledge and information gaps, strengthen and support critical cross-cutting issues to protect the food and agriculture supply chain, health and security of livestock, safety of our foods, as well as the well-being of farm, food service providers, and rural Americans.

The program area will award Standard Grants, Strengthening Standard Grants and New Investigator Grants must not exceeding $1,000,000 total per project (including indirect costs) for project periods of up to 2 years and are not renewable.

There are four areas of priority:

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 bio-solids used in production of produce.

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-CoV-2;

  • Measure the transfer rate of SARS-CoV-2 from hands to foods and food contact surfaces;

  • 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.

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 SARS-CoV-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).

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.

Applicants should 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. Applications should include strategies and knowledge that can be rapidly implemented to minimize or eliminate COVID-19 impacts on the nation's food and agricultural system.

NIFA will expedite application evaluation & awards review to ensure rapid project start-up.

For more information and to apply, please review the RFA:

Deadline to submit applications is June 4.

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