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Food and Agricultural Sciences National Needs Graduate Fellowship Grants

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This federal aid program is managed by:

National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Department of Agriculture


The purpose of the NNF Grants Program is to train students for Master’s and/or doctoral degrees and provide additional postdoctoral training for Fellows who have completed their doctoral degrees at colleges and universities that have demonstrable teaching and research competencies in the food and agricultural sciences. Fellowships and IRTA awards are specifically intended to support traineeship programs that encourage outstanding students to pursue and complete their degrees or obtain postdoctoral training in areas where there is a national need for the development of scientific and professional expertise in the food and agricultural sciences. Fellowships and IRTA awards invest in graduate training and relevant international experiential learning for a cadre of diverse individuals who demonstrate their potential to successfully complete graduate degree programs in disciplines relevant to the mission of the USDA.

Funding obligations:

(Project Grants) FY 09 $1,352,100; FY 10 est $6,544,127; FY 11 est $3,657,727 - The difference between the appropriation and obligation numbers reflects legislative authorized set-asides deducted as appropriate, and in some cases the availability of obligational authority from prior years.

Uses and Use Restrictions:

Competitive annual grants providing for a limited number of graduate stipends are awarded to selected U.S. institutions of higher education so as to distribute support for graduate study to promising food and agricultural scientists and professionals. Individuals selected initially by the institution must enroll in a program leading to a graduate, master's or doctoral degree in one of the targeted national needs areas of the food and agricultural sciences. Such persons may not have been enrolled previously in the program at the same degree level. Current fellows are eligible to receive supplemental grants of $3,000 to cover travel and living expenses for special international study or thesis/dissertation research experiences. Funding for the supplemental grants will be awarded on a competitive basis using no-year funds drawn from expired fellowship grants with unspent funds remaining as set forth in the annual program guidelines. No indirect cost allowed. Institutional allowance in lieu of indirect cost. NNF stipend funds for fellowship must be used to: (1) support the same Fellow at the Master’s degree level who maintains satisfactory progress and is eligible to receive grant support for a maximum of twenty-four (24) months during a thirty-month period, and/or (2) support the same Fellow at the doctoral degree level who maintains satisfactory progress and is eligible to receive grant support for a maximum of thirty-six (36) months within a forty-two-month period. Institutions must use a minimum stipend of $18,500 per year for Master’s Fellows and $24,500 per year for Doctoral Fellows. If funds remain as a result of USDA Fellows completing their studies early (less than twenty-four months for a Master’s degree or less than thirty-six months for a doctoral degree) or Fellowships being terminated prematurely, such funds may be used, within the time remaining on the award, to support: (1) pursuit of a doctoral degree in a TESA in the food and agricultural sciences by a Master’s degree level Fellow at the grantee institution, or (2) a Replacement Fellow. The tenure of such a Replacement Fellow is limited to whatever time is remaining on the grant before it expires; however, an institution may not appoint a Replacement Fellow unless there is time for the student to complete at least one semester/quarter of study before the expiration date of the grant. Replacement Fellows must meet all of the eligibility criteria and other requirements established for Fellow selection and are subject to the same provisions as other Fellows during their tenure in the program. Replacement Fellows are entitled, during their tenure, to the same benefits that other Fellows receive from the grant award and National Needs Graduate and Postdoctoral Fellowship Grants Program. Institutions may, but are not required to, continue a Replacement Fellow's tuition and other benefits beyond the expiration date of the grant using institutional or other funds. A Fellow may not be simultaneously supported under multiple National Needs Graduate and Postdoctoral Fellowship Grants Program awards. Remaining funds cannot be used to increase annual Fellowship stipends provided to existing Fellows. If less than one semester/quarter remains on the award, the grantee must refund unexpended monies to CSREES. Such funds cannot be used to increase the annual stipend amounts for current USDA Graduate Fellows. Should a USDA Fellow require additional time beyond the grant period to complete his or her degree, it is expected that the grantee will consider alternatives to continue supporting the Fellow through other means. Tuition and fees are the responsibility of the Fellow unless an institution elects to use its cost-of-education institutional allowance for this purpose or elects to pay such costs out of non-USDA monies. No dependency allowances are provided to any USDA Graduate Fellows. Stipend payments and special international study or thesis/dissertation research travel allowances may be made to Fellows by the institution, in accordance with standard institutional procedures for graduate fellowships and assistantships. When grants are for IRTAs that will be used by To-Be-Recruited Fellows: The IRTA funds for To-Be-Recruited fellows will be withheld until the Project Director has submitted, to the NNF Program Office, all of the required documentation for eligibility of the Graduate Fellow for the IRTA as well as the required specifics outlined in the RFA for the IRTA. The information must be submitted for approval, no less than 150 days prior to the use of the IRTA funds (see PART IV, B, 3, b, Section 1). This requirement will become a condition of the award. Fully discretionary.

Examples of Funded Projects:

Fiscal Year 2010: No Current Data Available Fiscal Year 2011: No Current Data Available Fiscal Year 2012: No Current Data Available

Program Accomplishments:

Not Applicable.

Types of Assistance:


Range and Average of Financial Assistance:

If minimum or maximum amounts of funding per competitive project grant or cooperative agreement are established, these will be announced in the annual program announcement or Request for Application (RFA).

Length and Time Phasing of Assistance:

Grants cover a five (5) year period, however, fellows are supported for three (3) years for a doctoral degree or two (2) years for a masters during that five (5) year period. Method of awarding/releasing assistance: by letter of credit.

Applicant Eligibility:

Proposals may be submitted by all U.S. colleges and universities that confer a master's or doctoral degree in at least one area of the food and agricultural sciences targeted for national needs fellowships. As defined in Section 1404 of the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977, as amended (7 U.S.C. 3103), the terms 'college' and 'university' mean 'an educational institution in any State which: (a) Admits as regular students only persons having a certificate of graduation from a school providing secondary education, or the recognized equivalent of such a certificate; (b) is legally authorized within such State to provide a program of education beyond secondary education; (c) provides an educational program for which a bachelor's degree or any other higher degree is awarded; (d) is a public or other nonprofit institution; and (e) is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association.' Eligibility also applies to research foundations maintained by eligible colleges or universities.

Beneficiary Eligibility:

Funds awarded in this program are used to support the training of graduate students to obtain either a master's or doctoral degree in one of the targeted specializations of the food and agricultural sciences.

Award Procedure:

Applications are subjected to a system of peer and merit review in accordance with section 103 of the Agricultural Research, Extension and Education Reform Act of 1998 (7 U.S.C. 1613) by a panel of qualified scientists and other appropriate persons who are specialists in the field covered by the proposal. Within the limit of funds available for such purpose, the NIFA Authorized Departmental Officer (ADO) shall make grants to those responsible, eligible applicants whose applications are judged most meritorious under the procedures set forth in the RFA. Reviewers will be selected based upon training and experience in relevant scientific, extension, or education fields, taking into account the following factors: (a) The level of relevant formal scientific, technical education, or extension experience of the individual, as well as the extent to which an individual is engaged in relevant research, education, or extension activities; (b) the need to include as reviewers experts from various areas of specialization within relevant scientific, education, or extension fields; (c) the need to include as reviewers other experts (e.g., producers, range or forest managers/operators, and consumers) who can assess relevance of the applications to targeted audiences and to program needs; (d) the need to include as reviewers experts from a variety of organizational types (e.g., colleges, universities, industry, state and Federal agencies, private profit and non-profit organizations) and geographic locations; (e) the need to maintain a balanced composition of reviewers with regard to minority and female representation and an equitable age distribution; and (f) the need to include reviewers who can judge the effective usefulness to producers and the general public of each application. Evaluation Criteria will be delineated in the RFA.

Contact Info for Headquarters Office:

USDA, NIFA, National Program Leader, Science and Education Resources Development 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, STOP 2251, Washington , District of Columbia 20024 Phone: (202) 401-2855 or (202) 720-1973

Website Address:

Related Programs:


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