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Rural Development


During the last 30 years, dramatic social, economic and technological changes have occurred in many rural areas in the United States.  Although farming continues to be an important source of income, most of rural America is moving from an agrarian to post-agrarian economy.  The results of this transformation have been uneven across the rural landscape.  Some communities are facing economic decline and rural exodus, while in other communities, especially those in areas near large urban centers or rich in natural amenities, economic and population growth have accelerated.  Even in rural communities where economic growth and population have grown, some have become more vulnerable to disasters caused by human action and/or climate changes.  Many other communities are plagued by limited access to good schools, food, and health services.  As a result, despite decades of intervention and billions of dollars in public investment, many rural residents are unable to utilize important government services and new scientific information that can help improve their quality of life; have higher food insecurity and childhood obesity rates;  lack the required entrepreneurship and workforce skills to take advantage of emerging economic opportunities  (e.g., climate  change mitigation, safe food processing and marketing, etc);  and are hampered by insufficient modern  infrastructure to rapidly benefit from growing public and private sector investment.

Applications may be submitted for the development of new technology, or for the utilization of existing technology, that address important economic and social development issues or problems in rural America.  The applications need not be centered on agriculture, but may be focused on any area that has the potential to provide significant benefits to rural Americans. All applications should explicitly discuss the specific rural problem or opportunity that will be examined and how this technology will successfully address the problem or opportunity. Applications submitted must include an objective to assess the impacts of the proposed project on the environment or the socio-economic development of rural areas. 

To meet these identified problems and opportunities of rural development, the long-term (10 year) goal for this program is to develop and commercialize new technology, products, processes and services that will: (i) enhance the efficiency and equity of public and private investment in rural communities; (ii) build a diversified workforce to meet the needs of the present and for the future; (iii) enhance resilience to both natural and human disasters; and (iv) enhance economic vitality of rural communities and, in turn, reduce rural poverty.

FY 2012 Research Priorities:

Examples of appropriate subtopics for research proposals from small businesses include, but are not limited to, the following:

1.      Development of services and information and managerial systems that improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Local Governments and Public and Private Institutions.   Topics may include educational programs that address the specific needs of people in rural areas (e.g., development of entrepreneurship and workforce skills); new housing designs; improved health care delivery; appropriate transportation and communication technologies and services; and marketing of new information and technologies.

2.      Development of technologies and services that protect or enhance the environment while promoting economic development.  Topics may include technologies and services that promote rural tourism, protect the ecosystem, conserve energy, develop alternative energy sources such as wind and solar energy (excluding biofuels), etc.

3.      Reducing the vulnerabilities of rural communities from hazards (excluding intentional acts such as terrorism).  Procedures are needed to make rural communities more sustainable to natural or unintentional hazards such as food-borne illnesses, food contamination, droughts, hurricanes, etc., through better preparation, forecast and warning, response and rebuilding phases of hazard mitigation, including communication.

4.      Development of technologies and services that specifically address the needs of youth and the low-income sector of the rural population.  Efforts are need that will enhancehuman capital development, build earnings capacity, increase labor force participation and/or promote job creation to the most vulnerable populations in rural communities. 

Other Key Information

  •      All Phase I applications should give the reviewing community a brief vision of where the PD expects the project to be at the end of Phase II (entering Phase III commercialization).
  •     Applications exceeding the budget limitation or exceeding the page limit or not meeting the formatting requirements will be excluded from NIFA review.
  •      The applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the National Program Leader regarding the suitability of research topics.
  •      If funded, projects are expected to enhance the environmental and economic vitality of rural communities.  Therefore, applications must contain an objective to assess the impacts of the proposed project on the environment or the socio-economic development of rural areas.  Applications that do not address this will not be  reviewed.
  •      Applications dealing with on-farm production agriculture research should be submitted to topic area 8.12 Small and Medium Sized Farms.
  •      Applications dealing with the development of biofuels and biobased products should be submitted to topic area 8.8 Biofuels and Biobased Products.
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