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The 2008 Farm Bill: Making an Impact through NIFA

Investing in Agricultural Economics and Rural Communities

Prosperity and economic security for individuals and families, farmers and ranchers, entrepreneurs, and consumers across the country is key to a strong economy. NIFA funding and program leadership provide for research, education, and extension activities that help people make sound financial management decisions, discover new economic opportunities, develop successful agricultural and nonagricultural enterprises, take advantage of new and consumer-driven markets, and understand the implications of public policy on these and other activities.


Farm Financial Management

Successful farm management involves integrating production land, labor, financial resources, and understanding of the many elements of agriculture risk management. NIFA-funded programs provide staff expertise to help farm operators achieve economically viable, ecologically sound, and socially responsible farm businesses.

Financial Security

NIFA-funded programs help people acquire the skills, knowledge, and motivation to build financial security. Face-to-face and Web-based extension program participants learn to achieve financial self-sufficiency and stability, which is the cornerstone of prosperous communities.

Markets, Trade, and Policy

Moving products from producers to consumers is vital to a successful agricultural enterprise. NIFA supports agricultural marketing with programs that provide information to expand markets and reduce trade barriers, support international economic development, and generate new or improved products and processes to expand markets.

Rural and Community Development

Prosperous and sustainable communities ensure that rural America continues to serve as an economic engine and a great place to raise a family. The agency’s regional partnerships help enable rural citizens to guide the development of their rural communities; provide information and resources to local decisionmakers; and help families, farms and ranches, communities, and businesses achieve prosperity and security.


Canola joins Oklahoma’s portfolio of winter crops

Oklahoma farmers have a new alternative crop. Mild winters allow year-round agriculture in Oklahoma, including winter wheat—but when wheat is grown year after year on the same fields, yields and quality begin to decline. Now, Oklahoma State University researchers and extension experts, with NIFA funding and national program leadership, have introduced winter canola. The crop fits grower needs and offers several advantages, including its ability to break up the weeds, pests, and pathogens that plague repeated wheat plantings; drought tolerance; local growing, which reduces the amount of canola imports; and job growth.

Microenterprise sector spurs development for underrepresented groups

A project in Alabama promoted conditions necessary for the development of the microenterprise sector among small and socially disadvantaged communities. An Alabama A&M project focused on this audience, teaching entrepreneurship as a tool to increase their ability to take control of their lives in the face of limited job opportunities. The project is also providing encouragement for existing entrepreneurs and for labor force development, including measures to counterbalance the migration of labor to urban centers.

Minnesota estate-planning workshops save farmland

Extension professionals delivered workshops to farmers in Minnesota to illustrate the importance of estate planning and provided concrete strategies for creating a transfer plan. The value of assets protected after receiving education from extension was $1,689,609, including owned land, livestock, equipment, and machinery. After calculating non-farm/ranch assets for participant families, the total financial impact of protected rural property can be assessed at $384,300,000.

FRTEP building agriculture economies on American Indian reservations

The Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP) expands Cooperative Extension to American Indian reservations through targeted programs in production agriculture, youth development, natural resource conservation, and human nutrition. For example, the University of Idaho’s Fort Hall FRTEP agent identified a limitation of ranch profitability on the reservation due to cattle death from improper vaccine management. As a result of extension education programs, ranchers and retailers have changed their vaccine storage and handling practices and saved entire herds that are valued at $1,400 per head.

Wisconsin apprenticeship program “grows” future dairy farmers

Wisconsin is losing many of its small and mid-sized dairy farms because few young and beginning dairy farmers are prepared to manage operations as aging dairy farmers retire. The GrassWorks Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA) program, with funding from NIFA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, is working to resolve this issue by educating a new generation of dairy farmers while providing a mechanism for investment, growth, and transition for current and soon-to-retire farmers. DGA solicits practicing dairy farmers to serve as Master Graziers to the apprentices, who receive both 2 years of mentored on-farm employment and 288 hours of related classroom instruction.

Cornell-led team establishes broccoli industry in the eastern United States

Broccoli is typically grown along California’s coast and foggy valleys where average temperatures are between 55° and 65° Fahrenheit. Broccoli must be refrigerated after harvest for maximum nutrient quality. However, an increase in the cost of cooling and shipping broccoli long distances has led to broccoli production east of the Mississippi River. A team of researchers and extension specialists led by Cornell University is working to develop and test broccoli cultivars that are suited to the climate and soils from Maine to Florida and westward into Ohio and Tennessee. Conservative estimates indicate that Eastern broccoli production will result in a 66-percent reduction in fuel used to transport the crop to market. This will save close to 2.3 million gallons of fuel per year and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 51 million pounds per year. The team expects that growers in the region will see increased profits of $3,000 per acre per year, which translates to increased profits of $40 million. The total annual economic impact on rural economies will be almost $90 million.

Job growth through NCRCRD

The Michigan State University-led North Central Regional Center for Rural Development (NCRCRD), in its 12-state coordinating role, developed a set of common benchmarks for programming to enhance job retention and growth in the region. NCRCRD’s highly acclaimed webinar series helped stakeholders identify best practices in rural economic and community development. The North Central region has documented over 32,000 jobs created or saved as a result of NCRCRD programs. As an example, University of Wisconsin Extension helped 3 counties merge their economic development efforts, which resulted in $2 million in business assistance grants, $15 million in private investment in local businesses, and 450 new jobs. 

e-BEAT gets Mississippi connected

Mississippians rank digital literacy as one of their greatest needs. Mississippi State University Cooperative Extension and the Southern Region Rural Development Center’s e-BEAT deliver a variety of programs that introduce Internet applications to multiple audiences, including local government, community organizations, small businesses, and the public. Face-to-face and online programs teach people why broadband Internet is important and how they can implement technology to better their lives. Cooperative Extension team members have worked with state agency partners to carry out technical assistance activities, including wireless provider/carrier interactions, small city/town Wi-Fi projects, individual/small business access assistance, and business development.

CYFAR programs support at-risk youth

Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) projects serve 26,600 youth ages pre-K to 19 and their parents through the Cooperative Extension programs of 42 land-grant universities. CYFAR receives its quality research information and program materials from CYFERnet, the Children, Youth, and Family Educational Resource Network. CYFAR projects cross disciplines, program areas, and geographic lines to empower family members of all ages through comprehensive, intensive, community-based programs. Examples include: The Community Gardens in North Carolina project addressed hunger, poor diet, and at-risk youth by providing under-served, low-income people with the resources necessary to grow their own fresh fruits and vegetables. Families who participated in the hands-on nutrition and community garden curriculum grew their own fruits and vegetables, saved money, and enhanced the nutritional quality of their meals. Two rural Nebraska counties developed community coalitions to increase family self-sufficiency, strengthen positive parenting skills, support young peoples’ pursuit of higher education, and increase positive youth behaviors. Their program is available in both English and Spanish.

Oregon-led cooperative improves revenues for small and mid-sized organic farms

Oregon State University is leading a group of researchers and educators to form the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC) to address the seed and plant breeding needs of organic farmers in the Northern United States. Success in organic agriculture requires plants that thrive under organic production challenges such as weed competition, low-input fertility, and pest and disease pressure. Success in organic markets also demands superior flavor, nutrition, and local availability. NOVIC partners with small and mid-sized organic farmers to breed new varieties of broccoli, carrot, snap pea, sweet corn, and winter squash; identify existing varieties that perform best for organic agriculture; and educate farmers on organic seed production and plant variety improvement.

Enhancing organic apple production through research, education, and eXtension

Apples are an important component of New England’s diversified agriculture, but challenges associated with growing the traditional apple (McIntosh) has limited the number of organic apple orchards in the region. This University of Vermont project used NIFA Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative funding to educate organic growers on how to transition to Honeycrisp, Ginger Gold, Macoun, Liberty, and Zestar! apples. “OrganicA” Project outputs include an organic apple production website, an undergraduate course on organic fruit production, workshops and orchard tours, and presentations at meetings from local to international levels. The project is creating a change in action among program participants.


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