Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to

Thursday, May 12, 2005

USDA Competitive Grant Programs Get Low Marks in Service to Small, Mid-Size, and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

-- from the desk of Marie Powell, Communications Associate
Center for Rural Affairs

Washington DC briefings will share preliminary results of a study on federally-funded USDA projects

LYONS, NE – Federal dollars were not well spent on projects to improve farm profitability and rural community success, according to the Center for Rural Affairs, a leading advocate for rural issues based in Lyons, Nebraska.

On Thursday, May 19, 2005, Kim Leval, senior policy analyst with the Center, will brief Congressional leaders and staff, agency staff, and media on what researchers found. Leval will be joined by project assistant Amanda Tuttle.

“We wanted to know if family farms and rural communities were truly benefiting from the infusion of federal dollars coming from these programs,” said Leval. “While some exemplary projects have risen to the top, our preliminary research shows these programs are not serving family farmers and rural communities to their full potential.” Results show a “D” average for projects studied so far.

The two-year study examines spending from three key federal agricultural research, marketing, and business enterprise development programs.

The programs and their purposes include:
Rural Business Enterprise Grants (RBEG) Program, intended to finance and develop small and emerging business enterprises.

National Research Initiative (NRI), intended for research programs which respond to the nation’s food, fiber, and natural resource challenges.

Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems (IFAFS), now subsumed into the NRI, but originally intended, in part, to research challenges to small and mid-size farms and ranches.

Briefing Times and Locations:
A special Iowa briefing will be held at 11 a.m. in the House Agriculture Committee Briefing Room1300, Longworth House Office Building.

A general briefing, open to all, will follow from noon to 1 p.m. in the same location.

An Iowa briefing on the Senate side will begin at 2 p.m. in room 328-A of the Russell Senate Office Building.

A general Senate briefing will follow at 3 p.m. in room 328-A.

The next phase of the study will examine the USDA Value Added Producer Grants Program and will use a benefit-cost analysis to look more fully at the potential for programs such as these to invigorate rural economies.
The research was undertaken by the Center for Rural Affairs in cooperation with Iowa State University Extension with funding from the Leopold Center.

For more information, contact Kim Leval at (402) 870-0658 or

Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a nonprofit working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Find out more about the Center at our website,


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