The Center for Rural Affairs released a report today, entitled The Impact and Benefits of USDA Research and Grant Programs to Enhance Mid-size Farm Profitability and Rural Community Success. The report analyzes the benefits to small and mid sized farms and ranches of four mainstay USDA research and rural development grant programs – the Value Added Producer Grant program (VAPG); Rural Business and Enterprise Grant program (RBEG); National Research Initiative (NRI); and Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems (IFAFS).
“Our analysis revealed that, in total, of nearly $500 million dedicated to these four programs, only five percent went to projects determined to be beneficial to small and mid sized farmers and ranchers or beginning farmers and ranchers,” reported Kim Leval of the Center for Rural Affairs.
The Center for Rural Affairs’ report identified the Value Added Producer Grants (VAPG) and IFAFS as the two programs, among the four analyzed, that offered the most benefits to small and mid sized producers as well as beginning farmers and ranchers. “Which is understandable, because value added grants and IFAFS came into being shortly after the National Commission on Small Farms recommended the creation of such programs to assist small and mid sized farmers and ranchers in creating new markets and economic opportunities,” added Leval.
Consequently, the Center for Rural Affairs recommends in the report that the Value Added Producer Grant program be reauthorized in the 2007 farm bill and provided with $50 million annually in mandatory funding.
The report goes on, however, to state that “despite recommendations and challenges of the National Commission on Small Farms and the rhetorical commitment of USDA to small agricultural operations, we found that the vast amount of funded projects and program funds do not benefit small and mid sized and beginning farmers and ranchers and are not relevant to their needs.”
For a full copy of the report and recommendations see http://www.cfra.org/pdf/Leopold_Report_Final.pdf
“The NRI, intended to foster research to address national food, fiber and natural resource challenges, has failed to invest in research that helps develop economic opportunities that will keep families on the land,” said Leval. “And RBEG, aimed at rural small and emerging business development, also failed to make the grade.”
The Center for Rural Affairs’ report also points out that all four projects were generally lacking in projects benefiting beginning farmers and ranchers. “Given the demographics of agriculture in America – with only 70,000 farmers and ranchers under the age of 35 as opposed to 350,000 just 25 years ago – the inability of major USDA research and grant programs to address the topic of beginning farmers and ranchers is disappointing,” Leval concluded.
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