Monday, September 26, 2016

Agriculture Accepting Proposals On Nutrient Reduction, Preservation, Other Issues Thru Oct. 7

With a number of challenges confronting the agriculture industry – ranging from invasive pests and water quality improvement obligations to global macroeconomic forces and access to human and financial capital – the Department of Agriculture announced Monday said it is now accepting research funding proposals for projects that seek to better understand these issues.  (formal notice)
Proposals are due October 7.
The department is soliciting proposals specific to animal health and animal sciences matters separately via the Pennsylvania Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission.
“From conservation to pest management to farm succession, there is no shortage of challenges facing Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, “but that also often means there is no shortage of opportunities. Realizing those opportunities, though, requires research to better understand these issues. Thanks to Governor Wolf and the General Assembly, we have resources to study these issues and better understand some of the most pressing issues in Pennsylvania facing the agriculture industry.”
For the current fiscal year, more than $1.6 million was appropriated through the Agriculture Research line item. Additionally, $1.5 million was appropriated in fiscal year 2015-16, but was lapsed into the current fiscal year after insufficient time remained to solicit proposals and award grants prior to the June 30 fiscal year end date. Of that total, more than $1 million is available for research projects.
The priority topics identified for funding include:
-- Nutrient Imbalance And Infrastructure Opportunities In Western Pennsylvania:  Given the concentration of animal agriculture in central Pennsylvania and nutrient loads into that region’s waterways, what are the opportunities and challenges for expanding animal agriculture in western Pennsylvania.
-- Farm Safety: While existing research speaks to the benefits of farm safety measures and technologies, what reasons account for why more farmers do not make these potentially life-saving investments.
-- Plant Pest Control Development, Testing and Monitoring: Given the introduction of new invasive species into Pennsylvania, what are the most effective pesticides for controlling these pests and what options exist for pest control in the growing organic sector.
-- Plant Pathogens: A better understanding of the biology and epidemiology of plant pathogens and recommendations on how to control these pathogens is needed to prevent the spread of plant pests.
-- Farmland Preservation: New, contemporary research is needed to better understand the return on investment of public support for farmland preservation, including quantification of the return and direct and indirect contribution of preserved farms to the state economy, and actual and avoided public service costs for preserved land compared to developed tracts.
-- Dairy Industry: The low-price environment in global dairy markets is challenging farmers across the state. To better manage in these challenging times, new research is needed on historical trends and future forecasts in milk product markets, as well as an assessment of processing capacity in the state.
-- Banking And Market Development: Access to capital is often cited as a challenge for agriculture. New research is needed to assess the availability of financing options in different regions of the state and the performance of agriculture loan portfolios.
-- Workforce Development:  Given the anticipated job vacancies in the state’s food and fiber industries over the next decade, a better understanding of how employers in these industries train workers for long-term careers is needed.
Aside from these priority areas of focus, the department is also making a share of the funding available for multi-year projects that may have received funding in the past, but require additional resources in order for researchers to complete their study.
Animal Health Grants
Additional funding will be available for research directly related to animal agriculture through the Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission.
Priority topics are animal health, diagnosis of animal diseases, the One Health initiative, animal productivity, and animal welfare. Project pre-proposals, up to two pages in length, are due September 30 to Deb Hepler by sending email to: Selected pre-proposals will be chosen by October 4, with full proposals due October 28.
Proposals for the non-animal-focused research should include contact information, justification that it aligns with one of identified priority topics, detail of proposed research, any additional funding partners and amount of funding, industry support (in writing), and a detailed project budget.
Project proposals will be scored on a number of factors, including the strength of its needs statement, potential impact of outcomes, methodology, evaluation and replicability, and industry support and participation.
Final applications should be submitted to the attention of Executive Deputy Agriculture Secretary Michael Smith at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, 2301 N. Cameron St., Harrisburg, PA 17110, by the October 7 deadline.

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