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USDA Invests $17.5M for Resilient Rural Towns, Sustainable Ag
Ohio Ag Connection - 05/17/2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Tuesday announced 47 grants totaling nearly $17.5 million to improve sustainable agriculture and help rural communities thrive. The funding is made possible through NIFA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

"A number of factors are involved in achieving economic success in rural communities," said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. "These NIFA investments will help us understand the social and behavioral factors that inform decision-making in agriculture, which can help rural communities thrive."

The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative is America's flagship competitive grants program for foundational and translational research, education, and extension projects in the food and agricultural sciences. The AFRI program area of Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities (AERC) supports projects that improve agricultural sustainability, protect the environment, enhance quality of life for rural communities, and alleviate poverty.

In FY16, AFRI AERC supported projects in five program areas: economics, markets, and trade; environmental and natural resource economics; behavioral economics; small and medium-sized farms; and rural entrepreneurship.

FY16 AERC grants include Ohio State University, Columbus, which will receive $499,384.

Among these FY16 projects, a University of Maine project will encourage youth employment and entrepreneurship activities to foster resilient rural communities. A University of Arizona project will address food waste through a sharing economy business model among farmers, retailers, restaurants, and consumers.

Past AERC projects include a Rutgers University workshop on policies to achieve a viable bioeconomy, which is the creation of food, feed, bio-based projects, and bioenergy from renewable biological resources. Michigan State University looked at ways to boost rural economic development by improving the transfer of university-developed technologies into commercial products, a process also known as technology transfer.

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