Program to Help Farm Families Weather Tough Economy Gets $5 Million Boost

PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University’s ability to help agricultural producers and their families weather tough economic times just received a dramatic boost, thanks to a nearly $4.9 million award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture.

WSU’s Western Center for Risk Management Education Team received the award after successfully competing for multiple grants from the NIFA.

The team, led by WSU Extension economist Jon Newkirk, developed the regional center grant application that resulted in nearly $1.18 million a year for three years. Other members of the team include Jo Ann Warner, principal assistant for the center; Extension coordinator John Nelson; program assistant Carrie Greenwalt; CAHNRS budget manager Esther Tate; and grant coordinator Jennifer Jansen.

“The WSU Extension Western Center provides leadership for Extension Risk Management Education programs in the 13 western states and the U.S. Pacific Islands,” said Newkirk. The center conducts a regional competitive grants program and has awarded funding to more than 160 projects, many serving Washington State producers, over the past seven years to train agricultural producers to manage the financial risks associated with agricultural production. “The nearly $3.6 million award from the NIFA will make possible continued funding for 20-25 new projects each year along with a number of initiatives to help farmers and ranchers succeed in these very challenging economic times,” Newkirk added.

For example, the Washington State Horticultural Association recently received a grant from the center to implement the “Growers Response to Agriculture, Safe, and Sustainable Programs” for Tree Fruit program. This project prepared producers to be ready for an audit and to have in place the appropriate food safety, pest management, and produce handling practices. “This project involves training GRAS2P coaches who in turn train Washington state tree fruit producers in good agricultural practices, including food safety and traceability back to the farm from the market, as well as in farm sustainability in terms of managing pests, water, and soil,” said Newkirk.

Recently, the center team, along with Danna Moore of the WSU Social and Economic Sciences Research Center, also collaborated with the University of Minnesota Center for Farm Financial Management. The collaboration resulted in the successful application to be the National Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers Training Coordination Center, one of the federal stimulus package programs.

“The WSU Western Center will receive $200,000 a year, for three years, to develop and maintain the capacity to lead and coordinate the TAAF Western Region program,” said Newkirk. “SESRC will receive an additional $125,000 to conduct program evaluation for the National TAAF program. If a commodity within the western region qualifies for the TAAF program, additional dollars will be made available to implement the training programs serving the producers of those commodities.”

Both the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Government Accountability Office have praised WSU’s involvement in the TAAF, he added.