WDC53: Urban, Indoor and other Emerging Agricultural Production Research, Education and Extension Initiative

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Active

WDC53: Urban, Indoor and other Emerging Agricultural Production Research, Education and Extension Initiative

Duration: 10/01/2020 to 09/30/2022

Administrative Advisor(s):


NIFA Reps:


Statement of Issues and Justification

Across the country, interest in agriculture is growing amongst metropolitan, urban, and peri-urban communities. The 2018 Farm Bill directed NIFA to establish a new competitive grant program to support research, education, and extension (REE) activities focused on urban agriculture, indoor farming, and emerging opportunities for improved production, harvesting, transportation, aggregation, packaging, distribution, and markets. The Farm Bill provided $10 million in mandatory funding for the first year and authorized up to $10 million in discretionary funding annually for 2019 through 2023. The Western region of the United States is the most urbanized region, with very large cities interspersed amongst large open spaces. 

The American Planning Association’s 2011 report Urban Agriculture: Growing healthy, sustainable places defined urban and peri-urban agriculture as referring to “the production, distribution and marketing of food and other products within the cores of metropolitan areas (comprising community and school gardens; backyard and rooftop horticulture; and innovative food-production methods that maximize production in a small area) and at their edges (including farms supplying urban farmers markets, community supported agriculture and family farms located in metropolitan green belts).” In addition to the production of food, urban agriculture can have positive economic, social, and environmental impacts in cities by addressing community and public health issues, the multiple co-benefits of green space, and the economic development opportunities associated with small-scale farming and food businesses.

Opportunities exist to build and strengthen existing agriculture activities being conducted amongst the diverse communities in our urban and metropolitan communities. The rich racial and ethnic diversity amongst urban communities who are using food production for economic opportunities, health and wellness (physical, emotional, and mental health), social and community development, and environmental benefits provide opportunities for expansion of existing and development of new REE projects, including purposeful and directed efforts related to equity, diversity, and inclusion.

An emerging opportunity exists to connect urban, indoor (aka Controlled Environment Agriculture; CEA) and innovations in agriculture. Increasing interest in placing CEA production in or near large urban centers provide unique REE opportunities ranging from technology, financing and profitability, equity and access, planning policies, and technological advances in water and energy utilization. The opportunity exists to connect the current wealth of existing knowledge and research capacity amongst food, energy, and water systems in the West to emerge as a leader in urban and indoor agriculture systems.

Justification for forming a Multi-state Research Project:  In April, 2020, NIFA published in the Federal Register a request for written stakeholder input on the Urban, Indoor and other Emerging Agricultural Production Research, Education and Extension Initiative. The purpose of this Notice was to assist NIFA in developing the fiscal year 2020 Request for Applications for the Urban, Indoor and other Emerging Agricultural Production Research, Education and Extension Initiative. In response, the Western Center for Metropolitan Extension and Research (WCMER; a center created by the Western Extension Directors Association and led by Washington State University), the National Urban Extension Leaders (NUEL), and several urban Farm Bureau offices hosted listening sessions and conducted a survey in support of NIFA’s request for input (see: https://metroextension.wsu.edu/urbanag/). Much of the data collected from these efforts are at the city or state level, allowing for state or regional analyses and identification of interest in and potential for REE proposal and program development.

A multi-state research project will facilitate a coordinated regional effort to develop and support groups of investigators to communicate and coordinate their REE activities across disciplinary, organizational, and geographic boundaries, including supporting the development of multi-state, multi-disciplinary funding proposals – function much like a National Science Foundation Research Coordination Network (RCN). Such a network would help advance REE projects and programs addressing scientific, engineering, economic, environmental, and social aspects of urban and indoor agriculture. In addition to the new money available through NIFA, proposals could be developed through other NIFA programs supporting urban agriculture, including: Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program, AFRI Foundational Knowledge of Agriculture Production Systems, Specialty Crop Research Initiative, AFRI Small and Medium Sized Farms, Community Food Projects, and the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative as well funding through corporate sponsored research and funding sources like the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research.

Objectives

  1. Evaluate the qualitative and quantitative data collected from the listening sessions hosted by the WCMER and NUEL to determine potential REE activities.
  2. Develop a committee structure to advance or create new directions in REE by supporting groups of investigators to communicate and coordinate their REE activities across disciplinary, organizational, and geographic boundaries, including supporting the development of multi-state, multi-disciplinary funding proposals (aka a REE Coordinating Network).
  3. Form a Western Extension and Research Activity (WERA) to continue the committee’s integrated approach to addressing urban agriculture issues and opportunities.

Procedures and Activities

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

Organization/Governance

Literature Cited

Attachments

Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

IL, MN, WA

Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

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