Russia Farm Privatization Project, 1992 - 1998
In 1991, then Secretary of Agriculture Edward Madigan and former St. Petersburg, Russia, Mayor Anatoly Sobchek initiated a project designed to assist Russian agriculture in moving from the former collective and state farm system to one privately owned and managed. A team of USDA agricultural specialists transformed the idea of building a U.S. style model farm in rural northwest Russia into a reality, the Russian-American Farm Privatization Project (RAFPP).
The RAFPP's goal was to develop a focal point, a research and demonstration farm, centrally located in an area surrounded by selected families who would then, with mentoring from U.S. farm families, begin the long and arduous journey toward developing private farms. Volkhov Raion, 75 miles east of St. Petersburg, was chosen as the RAFPP site because of the Raion administration's desire and willingness to provide support. The Raion administration provided 850 hectares, part of a former state farm, as the project site. Twenty-three families were selected by the Volkhov Raion Department of Agriculture to participate in the project. Each family was provided 50-60 hectares of agricultural land on which it was to develop a private farm.
One of the most important aspects of the RAFPP was in providing these newly developing farmers access to American farm family mentors. The American farm families, located long-term at the research and demonstration farm (18 to 30 months), assisted the families with individual consultations on agricultural issues and provided educational programs. The Americans also conducted research and demonstrations on crops and livestock applicable to small farms.
The RAFPP expanded its efforts in 1996, recognizing the need for an information delivery system similar to the U.S. Extension System, which was accessible to the private farmers. Project personnel worked closely with Russian counterparts on the development of a Raion and Oblast extension system. The Leningrad Oblast Ministry of Agriculture, with assistance provided by RAFPP, formed the Information and Advisory Service modeled after the U.S. Extension System. RAFPP also worked corroboratively with regional agricultural universities and academies to bring education and research capabilities to the government-sponsored Information and Advisory Service. Activities were coordinated with other regional agricultural projects to provide a synergistic benefit to private farmers.
Many U.S. land-grant universities participated in the RAFPP by providing faculty and staff with wide-ranging specializations to implement the programs. Michigan State University, The Ohio State University, and UC Davis were among the many university partners collaborating with the St. Petersburg State Agrarian University (SPSAU) and the Shushary Academy of Agrobusiness Management (AAM), two Russian partners who have taken active roles in the development of an extension system. The SPSAU has dedicated faculty and staff to work with the RAFPP Research and Demonstration farm to conduct projects specific to the needs of the developing private farmer. The AAM, with the cooperation of the World Bank-sponsored ARIS program, has developed a training program for new personnel in the extension system.
Although benefits to the United States are difficult to quantify, they are significant. The Project has opened the doors for U.S. agribusiness to provide improved seed and animal genetics, equipment, and technology to the developing agricultural sector. USDA has helped create the awareness of the quality of, and demand for, U.S. products. It has promoted individual contacts between Russian and American businessmen, and it has created a viable alternative to the state and collective farm system which will, as the private sector agricultural community develops, create future markets for all types of U.S. agricultural products. The project created the platform, based on personal contacts, that the U.S. agribusiness community can now build on to enhance trade between the two countries.