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Research Awards to Support Rural Communities

May 2, 2014

On April 30, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced more than $12 million in grants allocated to support the economic vitality of rural communities across the country.

NIFA made the awards through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Foundational Program’s Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities subprogram, including research in two priority areas (Economics, Markets and Trade, as well as Environment and Natural Resources) and research, education, and extension in two other priority areas (Entrepreneurship, Technology, and Innovation, as well as Rural Communities and Regional Development).

The request for proposals for these areas was published last December.

In total, 29 grants were made in these categories to 22 land grant universities plus one law school.

Examples of topics that received financial support include, but are not limited to, the interactions between agriculture, environment and communities in rural areas, demographic changes and impacts, consumer preferences or behavior, decision-making under uncertainty, market structure and performance, policy design and impact, or agriculture’s impact on the environment.

A full list of the funded projects is available in the NIFA press release.

Some Highlighted Projects

We have selected three of the 29 projects to highlight below.

Investigators at Colorado State University will be studying perceptions and preferences of agritourists to create a spatial analysis of opportunities for farms to expand agritourism endeavors and maximize profitability.  The results of the study will also assist in the development of outcome-based educational programs for extension educators, and students at the university to equip them with the tools and information they need to assist farmers engaging in agritourism with the  marketing, managerial, and community engagement strategies they need to be successful.

Researchers at the University of Kansas will analyze the impact of nutritional outreach programs delivered by Extension in rural communities in order to create an innovative food labeling system for rural grocery stores that will encourage the purchase of healthier items.  The labeling system will be coupled with increased and targeted nutrition education with the long term goal of sustaining rural businesses, promoting healthy food access, and strengthening local economies.  

The Vermont Law School’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems received funding to develop a Farmers’ Market Legal Toolkit (FMLT) and educate market leaders on various legal topics that affect them.  The project will be conducted in partnership with NOFA- VT, who will assist them in collecting data on area farmer’s markets.  The legal toolkit will include resources in three major areas: governance structure of farmer’s markets, liabilities related to use of EBT/SNAP systems, and general risk management.   (Editor’s Note: The USDA press release mistakenly identified this project as the University of Vermont and the USDA research summary system mistakenly identified it as the University of Arizona, but it is in fact Vermont Law School.)

Categories: Local & Regional Food Systems, Research, Education & Extension, Rural Development

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