Types of Federal Assistance

NIFA supports research, education, and extension activities at partner institutions through three main funding mechanisms:

For more information on types of federal assistance:

NIFA publishes requests for applications (RFA) to solicit grants designed to address relevant program objectives. RFAs provide instructions on how to apply as well as information about program purpose, eligibility, administrative and regulatory rules, and evaluation criteria. The RFA also informs stakeholders how to submit input to identify priorities for subsequent relevant RFAs.

Open RFAs may be viewed on the NIFA website as well as on the government-wide Grants.gov website.  For notification of RFA release, potential applicants may sign up either on Grants.gov or on the NIFA website. Press releases, published on the NIFA website, often inform prospective applicants about a new grant program.

Competitive Grants

NIFA awards competitive grants for fundamental and applied research, extension, and higher education activities, as well as for projects that integrate research, education, and extension functions. Competitive programs enable NIFA to attract a large pool of applicants to work on agricultural issues of national interest, and to select the highest quality proposals submitted by highly qualified individuals, institutions, or organizations. Awards are made following a rigorous peer-review process.

Who is eligible 

Individuals, institutions, or organizations may apply according to criteria listed in the RFA. For specific information on who may apply, refer to the RFA’s section on eligibility (Part III, A).

Search for grants

Prospective applicants may view open RFAs on the NIFA website and on Grants.gov. To be notified of RFA release, sign up at Grants.gov or on the NIFA website.

How to Apply 

To apply, follow the instructions in the RFA’s “Application and Submission Information” section (Part IV) and submit applications to Grants.gov. Applicants may sign up to receive notifications of grant updates at Manage Subscriptions.  

Capacity Grants

Capacity programs ensure that the Land-Grant University System and other partners maintain the “capacity” to conduct research and extension activities. Capacity Grants, formerly known as Formula Grants, are intended for land-grant institutions, schools of forestry, and schools of veterinary medicine to fund research and extension activities. The amount of funds provided to each institution is determined by a formula, often statutorily defined, that may include variables such as the rural population, farm population, and poverty rates. Local or regional university leaders determine which projects will be supported by an institution’s grant allotment. These decisions are informed, in part, by stakeholders who both conduct and use agricultural research and extension programs.

Who is eligible

Land-grant institutions and schools of forestry and veterinary medicine are eligible for capacity grants.  Refer to the "Eligibility" section of the RFA for information on a particular grant (Part III, A). 

How to apply

NIFA staff notifies the Authorized Representative (AR) at the institution when a Capacity RFA is open. Applications should be submitted through Grants.gov. Follow the instructions listed in the “Application and Submission Information” section of the RFA (Part IV).

Non-Competitive Grants

Non-competitive grants are directed by Congress to support designated institutions for research, education, or extension on topics of importance to a state or region. These projects are supported through Special Research or Direct Federal Administration Research or Extension Grants. Non-competitive grants differ from capacity grants in that the funding amount is not determined by formulae. Non-competitive grants are issued when:

  • Competition for a particular program has been waived by NIFA in accordance with its authority to do so (7 C.F.R. 3015.158(a) & (c))
  • Non-monetary awards of property or services are made
  • Work started under a prior award must be continued
  • An emergency or a substantial danger to health or safety mandates immediate award

Who is eligible

Only the institution(s) identified in the RFA is/are eligible.

How to apply

NIFA issues an RFA to the eligible institution. Designated institutions are required to submit an application through Grants.gov by the due date listed in the RFA. To apply, follow the instructions listed in the RFA’s Application and Submission Information section (Part IV).