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Regional Rural Development Centers

An IN FOCUS article on this program page details the integrated research, education, and extension approach the Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs) bring to rural and community development. RRDCs have rich portfolios of strategies to enhance the capacity of the land-grant system to help rural people and places.

The following are examples of exemplary RRDC projects:

Food Assistance Needs of the South's Vulnerable Populations is a new, special policy series helping scientists, policymakers, and practitioners understand and address issues of food assistance needs and population health in the South. USDA's Economic Research Service and the Farm Foundation provide partial funding. Publications include research-based analyses of obesity links to food security, the economic burden of obesity in the rural South, medical spending attributable to obesity, diet quality among low-income rural women, participation variations in food stamp and other assistance programs, Latino/Hispanic population's food stamp program participation in the South, and childhood obesity among low-wealth Latino families.

The November 2002 “Measuring Rural Diversity Conference,” organized by the Southern Rural Development Center (SRDC) and the Economic Research Service (ERS) has led to a new policy series developed by the SRDC to disseminate the results of the research. The first issue, November 2003, examines how poverty and persistent poverty vary across the ERS urban influence codes and where poverty is concentrated in the United States. It is available on the SRDC Web site. Additional issues will disseminate research findings on factors associated with lower income levels in tribal areas, the growing importance of rural proprietors for economic development, and creating metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas.

The Southern Rural Development Center 2002-2003 program of professional development training opportunities resulted in greater capacity for technical assistance in many areas central to rural and community development, including:

  • Training for Forest Service, extension, and Rural Development agency representatives in the South in core and advanced rural development skills, co-sponsored by SRDC, USDA Rural Development, the University of Georgia, USDA Forest Service, and the University of Florida IFAS Extension.
  • Sixteen new Business Retention and Expansion certified consultants, who are helping create new jobs from existing and new businesses.
  • Thirty-four extension professionals from seven southern states trained in health system analysis, improving extension's role in individual, family, and community health needs.
  • New skills in value-added entrepreneurship for extension faculty working with agricultural and natural resources producers.
  • New tools for state extension specialists and county agents to develop educational programs for smart growth in the rural South.
  • More than 120 participants from 20 states trained in Hispanic audience outreach.


The North Central Regional Center for Rural Development (NCRCRD) supported diverse professional development opportunities in 2002-2003, including:

  • Working with community and economic development extension program leaders to identify a set of core competencies for the land-grant system and to assess professional development needs in the North Central Region.
  • Hosting the 2002 National Extension Tourism Conference, where more than 100 extension researchers, specialists, field agents, and administrators learned about tourism as a development strategy.
  • Co-sponsoring, with Kansas State University College of Agriculture, the January 2003 conference, “Engaging Hispanic Audiences in Kansas.”


The Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development provided opportunities for extension leaders to learn from several of its research conferences and apply findings to educational programs, including:


The Western Rural Development Center (WRDC) surveyed rural western counties to determine the extent and manner in which rural county planning departments use GIS tools in their work. Findings are helping extension leaders develop educational programs for local governments and planning bodies to enhance application of GIS tools. Results of the study are online.


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