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USDA Announces $17.5 Million in Agriculture Research Grants

May 18, 2017

Rogers Farm Forage and Crop Research Facility, Maine. Photo credit: Reana Kovalcik.

Research is the foundation for growth – in agriculture as in many other industries. On Tuesday, May 16, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced 47 grants totaling $17.5 Million for research projects to improve sustainable agriculture in rural communities. These grant recipients applied for funding through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program.

These grants, which are funded through the Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities (AERC) area AFRI, provide funding for projects that improve agricultural sustainability, protect the environment, and work towards poverty alleviation in rural communities. Specifically, AERC supports research projects that address one or more of the following:

  • Economics, markets, and trade
  • Environmental and natural resource economics
  • Behavioral economics
  • Small and medium-sized farms
  • Rural entrepreneurship

Project Highlights

Michigan State University: Linking Agricultural Nutrient Pollution to the Value of Freshwater Ecosystem Services

This project examines pollution of water sources in the Great Lakes region. The overarching goal of this research project is to integrate economic and biophysical models to evaluate the effect of agri-environmental practices on freshwater ecosystem services. More specifically, the project focuses on linking phosphorus-related management practices on farms to changes in freshwater services, such as fish species composition and biomass and beach quality. In addition, this research works to evaluate the impact of policies as they pertain to farmer behavior and ultimately how they affect freshwater ecosystem services.

University of California, Santa Cruz: The Financialization of U.S. Farmland: Effects Of Changing Landownership on Small and Mid-Sized Farms

This project works to address the impact that the “financialization” of land (ownership by institutional investors, fund managers, etc) is having on small and medium-sized farmers in agricultural regions of both California and Illinois. Researchers at the university hope that by using various types of data, including geo-spatial property data, interviews with stakeholders, participant observation and surveys, they can identify farmland investment patterns and their subsequent influence on land access. The project will establish the baseline of information necessary to anticipate the consequences of land reorganization for small and medium-sized farmers. The materials gathered by this research will also be used to inform outreach targeted at reducing the challenges associated with increasing financial landownership.

Colorado State University: Rural Community Impacts of Farm To School: Food Supply Chains, Educational Programming, and Household Food Purchases

This project looks to leverage the power of the federal school lunch program to empower rural communities throughout the country. Since 2010, when Congress formally mandated funding for farm to school programs, there has been limited research at the national level to examine their impact. This project hopes to: evaluate if farm to school programs can increase profit for farmers and food supply businesses; explore geographic patterns of U.S. household demand and consumption for food, and whether these programs change purchasing patterns in households; pilot in-school field experiments to asses if and how farm to school programs influence food choice, consumption, and food waste; publish the results as a mean to influence research, practitioner, and legislative audiences.

South Dakota State University: Saving Grassland of the Great Plains: Is Management Intensive Grazing a Socioeconomically Viable Option?

This project examines management intensive grazing techniques as a way to avoid grassland conversion to cropland and maintain sustainable livestock production. The researchers will examine the impacts of agriculture management on the environment, the economics of conservation and policies affecting agriculture, and the economic implications of land use change. The research will also examine policies, such as the Conservation Reserve Program, designed to promote resource conservation and sustainability as they pertain to grazing management. Finally, the researchers will explore whether new management practices can create social benefits that can incentivize responsible grassland usage.

University of Iowa: Assessing Policy Innovations for Reducing Rural Poverty: A Research Conference Marking the 50th Anniversary of the People Left Behind

This proposal was created to fund a conference that focuses on rural poverty and barriers to rural development throughout the U.S. The organizers are using the grant funding to host a rural poverty research conference in Fall 2017 in Washington, DC. This conference will have two main objectives: 1) to review lessons learned over the past 50 years about the effectiveness of poverty-reducing strategies and policies in rural areas, and 2) to engage established and future scholars in formulating a rural research agenda for the next 20 years. While the funding will be for a short-term event, the organizers hope that the event will continue the conversation for the next few decades and eventually inspire tangible solutions that help reduce poverty in rural communities.

More information on these and other AFRI awarded projects is available on the NIFA website.

NSAC congratulates all recipients and looks forward to learning about the research findings as they become available.

Categories: Grants and Programs, Research, Education & Extension

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