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WASHINGTON DC

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the award of $30.1 million in competitive grants to fund 80 research projects to improve food safety, reduce antibiotic resistance in food, and increase the resilience of plants in the face of climate change.

The grants are made possible through USDA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), the nation's premier competitive, peer-reviewed grants program for fundamental and applied agricultural sciences.

In addition to the awards made today, Vilsack said that the President's 2017 Budget will invest a total of $700 million for AFRI, the fully authorized funding level established by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill.

In the seven years since AFRI was established, the program has led to true innovations and ground-breaking discoveries in agriculture to combat childhood obesity, improve and sustain rural economic growth, address water availability issues, increase food production, find new sources of energy, mitigate the impacts of climate variability and enhance resiliency of our food systems, and ensure food safety.

'In the face of diminishing land and water resources and increasingly variable climatic conditions, food production must increase to meet the demands of world population projected to pass 9 billion by 2050,' said Vilsack. 'Funding in research to respond to these challenges should be considered as an investment in our nation's future, an investment which will pay big dividends in the years to come.'

Since its creation, AFRI has been funded at less than half the levels established in the 2008 Farm Bill, and USDA has only been able to fund one out of ten research proposals presented. While grants awarded to universities, non-profits, community groups, businesses, foundations, associations, and federal agency and international partnerships have led to significant achievements that address critical issues related to agriculture, food, the environment, and communities, thousands of innovative research proposals have been left unfunded.

Food Safety Grants

The University of Wisconsin Madison was among several applicants that shared more than $15.1 million, including more than $3.4 million for antimicrobial resistance strategies, to ensure a safe and nutritious food supply and while maintaining American agricultural competitiveness.

The University of Wisconsin was awarded $474,973.

Plant Production Grants

USDA also awarded more than $15 million to support plant production research. The grants will provide fundamental research through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative's (AFRI) Plant Health and Production and Plant Products (PHPPP) program areas, focusing on plant production. This program is administered through USDA's National Instituture of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

The University of Wisconsin Madison was awarded $495,000 for plant breeding and ag production research as well as $25,000 to facilitate a conference.

USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Madison was awarded $403,000 for research in the area of Plant Growth Development, Composition and Stress Tolerance. Also winning a competitve grant in this category was Marquett Univerity of Milwaukee in the amount of $500,000.

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