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NIFA Invests $5M in Small and Medium-sized Farms

Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities (AERC) small and medium-sized farm research grants are focused on developing new models and technologies to help farmers increase their operations’ viability and competitiveness. There is also a particular focus within AERC on research into scaling up fruit and vegetable production, overcoming market constraints, and alternative crop and marketing enterprises.

Project Highlights
  • Resilient and Sustainable Small Farms: Lessons From The COVID-19 Pandemic; Institution: Lincoln University Of Missouri This is a strengthening seed project addressing the program priority of Small and Medium-sized Farms in the area of Agricultural Economics and Rural Communities. The long-term goal of this project to maximize the ability of small-scale farm operations in Missouri to improve in terms of efficiency, productivity, and overall welfare. The specific objectives of the study are: 1) estimate and analyze small farmers’ risk perceptions during the COVID-19 pandemic; 2) inform if small farmers use coping mechanisms during the Covid-19 pandemic to increase farm survival; 3) determine which small farmers requested and received external support during the COVID-19 pandemic; 4) measure the change in marketing channel choice during the COVID-19 pandemic; 5) explain variability in farm production, profitability, and long-term sustainability in terms of risk perception, resilience, external support, marketing channel choice, and farm and farm operator characteristics.
     
  • Cost Effective Spatial Data Visualization And Decision Support For Small And Medium-Sized Vineyards The goal of this new project proposal is to increase the adoption of precision viticulture by (A) completing the development of the web-based spatial data platform for growers, (B) demonstrating the value of precision viticulture through research field trials, and (C) providing experiential learning activities for producers to implement in their own operations. Although we will use small vineyards operations in NY/PA as a target audience, collecting and using spatial data for variable-rate management decisions is not unique to vineyards. Our expectation is that the tools and information developed in this project would be applicable to all small farm operations in the U.S. This project directly addresses the Small and Medium-sized Farms program priority to “Identify and develop affordable small farm appropriate digital agriculture tools that improve production, labor management, and farm profitability.”
     
  • Empowering Farmers By Diversifying Industrial Hemp To Bioproducts And Biochemicals An increase in market diversification opportunities of this new crop has a potential to decrease economic risks and increase farm income. Therefore, this proposal will focus on building a centralized knowledge base for sustainable uses of the whole hemp plant through a pilot growth operation of hybrid cultivar and subsequent manufacturing of hemp-derived products in partnership with industry to enhance the economic and environmental sustainability of small and medium US farms. Specifically, we will engage in concerted efforts to co-engineer hemp crops and products to synthesize a unified, interactive learning ecosystem. Our vision is perfectly aligned with NIFA’s Strategic Goal for the Small and Medium Sized Farms program by advancing hemp production in biochemicals and bioproducts to enhance economic efficiency and sustainability. The project outcomes will be shared with key stakeholders at field days/regional meetings to guide commercialization of our applications as well as contribute to the business and regulatory frameworks for the future industrial hemp industry in the US.
     
  • Sustaining Farm Operations In Extreme Negative Financial Positions Delinquency rates of agricultural production loans in the U.S. steadily increased from 2014 to 2020, to the highest rate since 2011. During this decade, almost 5,000 farms filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 12 protection. Georgia was one of the top five states in farm bankruptcy filings, where our analysis has shown the median debt-to-asset ratio of unique bankruptcy cases is almost 19 times more than the median of all Georgia farms. This state of farm financials establishes a critical need to address the ability for farm operations in extreme negative financial positions to increase profitability and sustain farm livelihoods. We seek to address this need through an integrated research and extension program focusing on small and medium sized farm operations. We will expand our unique dataset of farm level bankruptcy filings throughout the U.S. across multiple farming sectors. We will then develop an understanding of the state of farms in bankruptcy with respect to (1) business structure of filers; (2) debt composition, including personal and farm debt across various types of debt and lenders; and (3) economic outcomes, including the ability to maintain control of assets and restructure financial positions. An analysis of state and federal laws will inform the development of a model bankruptcy exemption law for agriculture to inform policymakers. Outreach to farmers, Cooperative Extension, and agribusiness service providers will be implemented through an online financial management curriculum for farms in extreme financial hardship that considers the bankruptcy process and the unique financial position farms like this face.

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