WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $15.6 million in grants to increase prosperity in rural America through research, education, and extension programs focused on promoting rural community development, economic growth, and sustainability. These grants were made through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Foundational program, administered by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
"Nearly 60 million Americans live in rural areas, and their value and impact through the agriculture industry can be felt both domestically and internationally," said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "To help these communities remain prosperous and viable, we need to support discovery of new ways that promote economic viability among producers, small businesses, and communities in rural America."
Farmers, ranchers, and rural communities are the backbone for Americans everywhere, providing food, feed, fiber, fuels, and open spaces. However, rural areas and communities face many hardships. Nearly 85 percent of persistent poverty counties are located in rural areas and over six million rural Americans, including about 1.5 million children, live in poverty today. Funding from NIFA is expected to assist communities and regions in creating self-sustaining, long-term economic development through research and strategic planning.
The following projects have been selected for awards in each AFRI program:
Innovations for Rural Entrepreneurs and Communities:
University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho, $499,966
University of Illinois, Champaign, Ill., $500,000
Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $499,738
Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Miss., $149,974
North Carolina Central University, Durham, N.C., $417,942
Texas A&M University, Kingsville, Texas, $47,570
University of Vermont, Burlington, Vt., $494,110
University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis., $498,212
Agricultural Economics and Rural Communities – Environment and Natural Resources:
University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn., $500,000
University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn., $499,995
University of Delaware, Newark, Del., $498,434
University of Illinois, Champaign, Ill., $499,534
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C., $499,995
University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb., $498,641
Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J., $49,000
Agricultural Economics and Rural Communities – Economics, Markets and Trade:
Arizona State University, Tempe, Ariz., $482,831
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Ark., $398,186
University of California-Davis, Davis, Calif., $474,132
University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn., $499,872
Albany State University, Albany, Ga., $499,386
Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan., $498,396
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Mass., $499,990
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C., $462,829
Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., $499,990
West Virginia University, Morgantown, W. Va., $402,416
NIFA also provided funds through the Small and Medium-sized Farm program. This program assists farmers and ranchers with management strategies and new technologies to improve the viability and competitiveness of small and medium-sized dairy, poultry, livestock, crop, forestry, and other commodity operations.
Small and Medium-Sized Farms:
Alabama A&M University, Huntsville, Ala., $480,000
Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Ala., $480,000
Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, La., $479,880
Tufts University, Medford, Mass., $479,194
University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo., $477,860
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C., $469,771
Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y., $478,342
South Dakota State University, Brookings, S.D., $479,751
Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $479,995
University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis., $425,000
The AFRI Foundational Program supports projects that sustain and enhance agricultural and related activities in rural areas and to protect the environment, enhance quality of life, and alleviate poverty. Some of the issues covered include demographic changes and impacts in rural areas; consumer behavior; how markets are structured and perform; and agriculture's impact on the environment.
President Obama's 2017 budget request proposed to fully fund the AFRI program, doubling the amount that was available in 2016 to $700 million. Since its creation, AFRI has been funded at less than half the levels established in the 2008 Farm Bill, and USDA has only been able to fund one out of 10 research proposals presented. While grants awarded to universities, non-profits, community groups, businesses, foundations, associations, and federal agency and international partnerships have led to significant achievements that address critical issues related to agriculture, food, the environment, and communities, thousands of innovative research proposals have been left unfunded.
Many of the awarded projects also align with USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, which coordinated efforts across the Department to support local and regional food systems. Under this administration, USDA has invested over $1 billion in more than 40,000 projects that are creating new economic opportunities in rural America, increasing access to healthy foods, and connecting urban and rural communities across the country.
NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. To learn more about NIFA's impact on agricultural science, visit www.nifa.usda.gov/impacts, sign up for email updates, or follow us on Twitter @usda_NIFA