WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (N.I.F.A.) announced $24 million in grants to study animal heath, reproduction, breeding, genetics and nutrition. The agriculture animal industry accounted for 42% of forecast U.S. agricultural receipts in 2009.

"The agriculture animal industry faces increasing challenges from animal diseases, reduced fertility, low nutrition and growth and non-tariff trade barriers," said Roger Beachy, N.I.F.A. director. "These grants will help the U.S. maintain a strong, internationally-competitive animal agriculture industry and lead to safer and more affordable animal products."

N.I.F.A. awarded these grants through four program areas of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (A.F.R.I.): Animal Reproduction Program; Animal Genome, Genetics, and Breeding Program; Animal Growth and Nutrient Utilization Program; and Integrated Solutions for Animal Agriculture Program.

A.F.R.I. funds research, education, and extension grants and integrated research, extension, and education grants that address key problems of national, regional and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of agriculture.

N.I.F.A. animal programs address several critical issues, including improving human nutrition by providing higher-quality sources of animal protein with reduced-fat contents while making efforts to reduce the dependency of the feeding and use of antibiotics and hormones to domestic animals. The programs also work to ensure a safer food supply by targeting the reduction in pre-harvest foodborne pathogens. They also contribute significantly to international food security by supporting research to reduce the incidence of diseases in animals and improving the production efficiency of agriculturally important animals.