USDA invests millions in projects to address food security, hunger through improved animal production and health

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture recently announced more than $27.6 million in funding for projects that will boost food security through improved animal production and health. Both of these areas contribute significantly to our nation’s food production, food security, and economy. The awards to support research, education, and extension projects were made through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, which is authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“As we continue to face major challenges in agriculture production, such as the extreme weather events and droughts, diminishing water resources, climate change, pests, and global competition, producers are looking for viable solutions,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “These grants allow American agriculture to remain a competitive force by providing food that is not only nutritious, but safe, and abundant.”

NIFA made the awards mostly through the AFRI Foundational program, as well as an interagency program with the National Institute of Health. The outcomes of these projects will advance genome enabled precision breeding and enhance animal production by improving animal growth, reproductive efficiency, and animal well-being. These projects will also increase our understanding of antimicrobial resistance and enhance animal health by tackling new, foreign or emerging disease threats through vaccine development, prevention, early detection, and recovery. These projects target improvements in livestock and aquaculture species.

Examples of AFRI funded animal health projects include a include a conference on vaccine development for agricultural species to reduce diseases and the need for antibiotic treatments; a Michigan State University to create a health-monitoring tool to assess the risk of developing metabolic stress in dairy cattle; an Ohio State University led-consortia to control poultry respiratory diseases in the US; a University of Rhode Island project sequencing the genome of the eastern oyster to improve breeding stock; and a University of Connecticut project to broaden the immunity of swine using an improved foot and mouth disease vaccine.

Virginia Tech fiscal year 2015 awards include:

  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, Va., $334,263 for Animal Reproduction
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, Va., $450,000 for Animal Growth
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