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Updated 8 February, 2004

Department of Agriculture









USDA is responsible for ensuring a safe, healthy, abundant, and affordable food and fiber supply, while sustaining and enhancing the resource base. Over the last decade, USDA has faced challenges in the areas of water quality, biodiversity, and pest and disease control that have required new approaches to food production and renewable natural resource management. In response to these changing needs, opportunities have surfaced in new uses for agricultural and forestry products, biofuels and biomass energy, and recycling technologies.

Types of Environment and Natural Resources Research Supported

  • Global Change: USDA focuses on understanding atmosphere/biosphere gas and energy exchange, altered carbon storage, effects of increased incidence of fire, insect and disease disturbance in forest ecosystems resulting from global change, and the response of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems to physical and chemical changes in the atmosphere.

  • Biodiversity and Ecosystems: USDA supports research to understand how community composition and structure relate to function and sustainability. Specific research needs are to understand the interaction of the biological community, including its environment, and to identify sustainable management practices for forest, range, crop, and aquatic ecosystems.

  • Toxic Substances/Wastes: USDA conducts and supports research on alternatives to chemical pesticides, such as crop rotations, and residue and waste management. This is part of USDA's larger Integrated Pest Management (IPM) initiative to develop environmentally benign methods to control pests and reduce pesticide risks.

  • Water Resources: USDA research is designed to improve watershed management systems and to reduce nonpoint source pollution due to the use of pesticides and fertilizers.

  • Air Quality: Research focuses on technologies that reduce and control airborne particles from soil and fires, and fire safety. USDA also supports management research to help mitigate natural disaster repercussions.

Research Funding Opportunities

Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES)

Two competitive grants within CSREES relate directly to the environment and natural resources:

  • The National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program (NRICGP) : Grant opportunities exist for research in soils and soil biology, and in water resources assessment and protection. Soils and soil biology grants support research on chemical, physical, and biological processes in soils and sediments; water resources assessment and protection grants support basic, applied, and developmental research to assess, manage, or improve the quality and/or nature of water resources linked to agriculture or forestry. An announcement of research opportunities is issued annually as a program booklet (including directions on how to apply for funding) shortly after the beginning of each fiscal year.
    Tim Strickland/Soils and Soil Biology Program
    202.401.4082 (voice)

    Berlie Schmidt/Water Resources Program
    202.401.4504 (voice)

  • Water Quality Special Research Grant Program : This program supports soil and water research, focusing on systems to prevent pollution or remediating problem areas on a watershed scale. Collaboration between agencies and involvement with investigators with expertise in a variety of disciplines is expected. An RFP is issued in the Federal Register, and proposals are accepted for a limited time.
    Maurice Horton/Water Quality Special Research Grant Program
    202.401.4971 (voice)

    Berlie Schmidt/Water Resources Program
    202.401.4504 (voice)

Forest Service

The Forest Service supports research to develop scientific information and technology needed to protect, manage, use, and sustain the Nation's 1.6 billion acres of public and private forest and rangelands.

The Forest Service conducts research through a network of seven regional Forest Experiment Stations, a national Forest Products Laboratory, and the International Institute of Tropical Forestry. Approximately 600 research scientists, supported by over 2,000 staff, are organized into Research Work Units at 70 locations. Programs are organized under four broad research areas, each of which includes several activity categories:

  • Vegetation Management and Protection : This activity involves long-term studies of management practices; alternative management for major forest types; growth, yield, and cultural practice; cost reduction and environmental impact of forest operations; and ways to reduce the impacts of unwanted fires, insects, and diseases. Categories requiring attention include fundamental plant sciences, silvicultural applications, quantitative analysis of forest vegetation, rangeland ecology, forest operations, insect ecology, and prevention and control of insects and diseases.

  • Wildlife, Fish, Water, and Air Sciences : This activity involves research to increase understanding of organisms, ecosystems, and ecological processes. General areas of high-priority research include the analysis of watershed processes and functions; the analysis of freshwater aquatic communities and habitat; the effects of management on habitat condition for recovery of threatened, endangered, and sensitive plant and animal species; ecosystem response to atmospheric factors such as temperature, precipitation, and chemical composition; and analysis and restoration of riparian communities. Activity categories within this area include wildlife habitat, aquatic habitat, watershed, and atmospheric sciences.

  • Resource Valuation and Use : Research is supported to assess the conditions, trends, and capability of forest and rangeland resources; to estimate current and anticipated demands for these resources; and to integrate social, economic, and biological factors to ensure sustainability of the natural resource while meeting people's needs. Activity categories within this area include renewable resources economics; urban forestry; wilderness, recreation, and cultural heritage resources; and forest product use and safety.

  • Resources Inventory and Monitoring : The Forest Service conducts a Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program to periodically quantify the timber supply and the status of forests across all land ownership in the U.S. Activity categories within this area include forest inventory and analysis, forest health monitoring, and inventory and monitoring techniques.

  • Global Change Research : The Forest Service is an integral participant in the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Forest Service research efforts relative to global change are highly integrated and consist of a broad spectrum of studies relating to forest and range ecosystems.

In FY95, the Forest Service provided $25.8 million to support 963 grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts to colleges, universities, States, and other research organizations. In addition, grants and agreements totaling $3.5 million were awarded for studies under the global change program.

Cooperative agreements are used to form partnerships to more efficiently conduct mission-related research. These agreements are generally determined on a scientist-to-scientist basis where funding, need, and expertise co- exist. Cooperative agreements are intended to complement internal Forest Service research efforts, with funding generally deployed for short-term studies and to acquire specific expertise or resources. Cooperators must submit progress reports, approval of which is usually a condition for continued funding. Funding decisions are made by Research Work Unit Project Leaders in coordination with Forest Experiment Station headquarters.

Research grants and contracts are solicited on a competitive basis. Funding decisions are made by Forest Service scientists and Experiment Station management in accordance with applicable regulations.

Formal RFPs are issued annually for targeted research on the global change issue. The request for and competitive selection of research proposals is coordinated nationally, but RFPs are issued separately for the northeast, southeast, southwest, and northwest regions of the country.

Information on cooperative agreements, grants, and contracts, as well as the Forest Service Global Change program can be obtained by contacting any of the following stations:

Intermountain Research Station
Federal Building
324 5th Street
Ogden, UT 84401
801.625.5412 (voice)

North Central Forest Experiment Station
1992 Folwell Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108
612.649.5000 (voice)

Northeastern Forest Experiment Station
5 Radnor Corp. Center, Suite 200
P.O. Box 6775
Radnor, PA 19087-4585
610.975.4222 (voice)

Pacific Northwest Research Station
333 S.W. 1st Avenue
P.O. Box 3890
Portland, OR 97208
503.326.3592 (voice)

Pacific Southwest Forest and Range
Experiment Station
800 Buchanan Street, West Bldg.
Albany, CA 94710
510.559.6300 (voice)

Rocky Mountain Forest and Range
Experiment Station
240 West Prospect Road
Fort Collins. CO 80526-2098
970.498.1100 (voice)

Southern Research Station
P.O. Box 2680
Asheville, NC 28802
704.257.4300 (voice)

Forest Products Laboratory
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53705-2398
608.231.9200 (voice)

International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Call Box 25000
UPR Experimental Station Grounds
Rio Piedras, PR 00928-2500

Agricultural Research Service

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) mission is to provide access to agricultural information and to develop new knowledge and technology needed to solve technical agricultural problems of broad scope and high national priority to ensure adequate availability of high-quality, safe food and other agricultural products to meet the nutritional needs of the American consumer; to sustain a viable and competitive food and agricultural economy; to enhance quality of life and economic opportunity for rural citizens and society as a whole; and to maintain a quality environment and natural resource base.

ARS serves a multitude of customers and stakeholders, including USDA and Congress. Within USDA, ARS serves the Secretary of Agriculture, operating as the Department's research arm to respond to the Nation's critical agricultural challenges. ARS scientists, technicians, and support personnel in laboratories strategically located throughout the country are at the disposal of the Secretary to investigate and solve technical problems that face American agriculture today.

ARS frequently establishes partnerships with companies and other institutions to develop new technologies through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) and patent licenses. These cooperative endeavors have dramatically speeded commercialization of agricultural technologies. Approximately 550 CRADAs have been set up with industry to date; some of these have already led to new commercial products and processes. Under these agreements, industry provides marketing information essential for the successful commercialization of the product/process, and other information to help guide ARS research. In turn, the first right to an exclusive license on the product/process emerging from the agreement is awarded to the industry partner.

Nearly 200 licenses of ARS-developed technologies are currently in place. These primarily involve licenses to industry to make, use, and sell ARS- patented products/processes. Patents are an important component of USDA's technology transfer program. ARS typically receives 50 to 60 patents each year; it has received more than 1,200 patents since 1970.

ARS technology transfer has had a positive impact on small and rural businesses. In keeping with the intent of the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986, ARS gives first preference to exclusive licenses of its technology to small businesses, many of which are in rural agricultural locations. More than half of ARS' current licenses and CRADAs are with small, rural, and/or minority- or women-owned businesses. More than 50 small and/or rural companies were created based on patented ARS technologies.
Richard Parry/ARS Office of Technology Transfer
202.720.3973 (voice)
202.720.7549 (fax)

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