USDA Holds Listening Session on New Water Research Initiative

On July 16th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) held a web-based listening session (attended by ASDWA staff) on the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) new Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 challenge area to address water issues.  NIFA was particularly interested in receiving input from stakeholders during the listening session on how best to achieve the most impact, within budget constraints, in the early years of this new challenge area.  Some key points from listening session participants included recommendations that this program:

  • Provide funding for multiple levels of efforts and activities;
  • Should not require cost-share, but should require clear descriptions of roles of collaborating partners;
  • Establish comprehensive set of priorities and priority areas (e.g., nutrients and security);
  • Include long-term (e.g., 10 years) funding for watershed and aquifer scale projects to be able to conduct monitoring and show water quality responses that may take many years to achieve;
  • Provide for a substantial and sustainable funding commitment;
  • Focus on collaboration with partners, including the private sector;
  • Aim at site specific, watershed and aquifer based activities to implement nutrient reduction strategies for local conditions and circumstances;
  • Examine surface and groundwater interactions and include considerations for groundwater that sometimes spans across multiple watersheds;
  • Use an integrated water resources management approach;
  • Encourage a coordinated approach to sustainable water use (quantity), as well as water quality;
  • Ensure that water use efficiency efforts do not inadvertently result in greater water use from saved water by distinguishing the difference between water consumption and use;
  • Assess the performance of nutrient reduction strategies;
  • Encourage integrated approaches between non-point source and point source dischargers;
  • Develop guidance on trading programs and credits featuring lessons learned from current programs;
  • Conduct more research on technologies;
  • Emphasize solutions and alternatives within existing regulatory frameworks;
  • Avoid redundancy by using and examining existing meta-data analysis;
  • Include work on children’s health, waterborne pathogens, and hormones;
  • Use, retain, and enhance land grant universities and cooperative extension grant management teams offering community-based education;
  • Include and promote the use of existing crop advisors that work directly with producers in the overarching strategy;
  • Focus on social and economic issues (including Spanish speaking communities) that integrate natural and social sciences and encourage conversations between policy-makers and scientists; and
  • Highlight how agriculture can be used as a conservation tool and identify potential mechanisms to show that agriculture provides a service.

For more information about the NIFA FY ’14 Water Program RFA and for instructions for submitting written comments, view the Federal Register notice from July 8 here:  Comments are due by July 30, 2013.