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Suzette's Letter, June 12, 2017

PUBLICATIONS

More than 46 million Americans, nearly 15 percent of the population, lived in poverty in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates. Compared against census data for 1999, more than 2,500 of the country’s 3,100-plus counties saw their rate increase. In 2015, 753 counties had a poverty rate of at least 20 percent — and 415 of these counties have been above this threshold in census data dating back to at least 1989. These “persistent poverty” counties are targets for set asides of some federal economic development funding.

  1. More children participated in USDA’s Summer Food Service Program in 2016

In 2016, USDA’s Summer Food Service Program provided meals to 2.8 million children on an average operating day in July, the peak month for program operations. This was a 7.7-percent increase from 2015’s July participation. Meals are served at a wide variety of USDA-approved sites including schools, camps, parks, playgrounds, housing projects, community centers, churches, and other public sites where children gather in the summer. Sites are eligible to offer free USDA-funded meals and snacks if the sites operate in areas where at least half of the children come from families with incomes at or below 185 percent of the Federal poverty level, or if more than half of the children served by the site meet this income criterion. In 2016, 47,981 sites offered summer meals, about 400 more than in 2015. Many low-income children also obtain free meals while school is out through the Seamless Summer Option of the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs.

  1. Rural unemployment rates declined for all education levels from 2010 to 2015

Unemployment rates for rural adults are lower for those with higher educational attainment. But during the Great Recession (shaded area of the chart), unemployment rates across all education levels roughly doubled between 2007 and 2010. Rural working-age adults (ages 25-64) without a high school diploma saw their unemployment rates climb the most, compared to those with higher educational attainment. For example, the difference in unemployment rates between rural working-age adults without a high school diploma and those with at least a bachelor’s degree grew from about 6 percentage points in 2007 to 11 percentage points in 2011. As the rural economy recovered, both rural and urban unemployment rates fell and trended toward pre-recession levels. For example, after peaking at about 15 percent in 2010, the unemployment rate of rural adults without a high school diploma dropped under 10 percent by 2015. The overall unemployment rate in 2015 was 5.7 percent in rural areas, compared to 5.2 percent in urban areas.

  1. How to Execute Programs and Policies that Rely on Technology

Technology drives almost every aspect of the federal government’s operations, but many federal agencies struggle to harness the full power of technology to support their missions. That’s why the Partnership for Public Service and Accenture Federal Services are partnering on a series of issue briefs to explain what new career and political leaders need to know about federal IT to be successful. Our first issue brief, “Building a Winning Technology Team: Driving Results Through Effective Partnerships,” focuses on the key leaders and stakeholders, discusses their roles in executing IT efforts and provides tips for forging partnerships and building teams for effective technology implementation.

  1. First Nations Development Institute Releases First Quarterly Results from Monitoring Food Prices, Indicating that American Indians and Alaska Natives Pay Higher Costs

First Nations Development Institute – as part of its work to combat food insecurity, eliminate “food deserts,” and support economic and business development in Native American communities – today released the first quarterly results under its 12-month study on food prices on Lower 48 reservations and in Alaska Native villages.  The current study expands upon First Nations’ initial pilot project and report titled Indian Country Food Price Index that was released in July 2016. (To see a news release about the pilot project and report, click here.)

 

  1. US lacks in workforce development; competitiveness at risk

If it takes a village to raise a child, it may take an entire educational support system as well as public policy reform and funding to get that child into a skilled technical job. A two-year study coordinated by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that the disjointed method of workforce development approaches in the U.S. may be hampering the economic competitiveness of the country. To combat that disjointed approach, the study, Building America’s Skilled Technical Workforcemakes a series of recommendations for policy makers, educators, employers, and other stakeholders in the future development of a skilled technical workforce.

  1. Certified organic operations are concentrated in the West, Northeast, and Upper Midwest

Although all 50 States have some organic production and processing, the proportion of farms that are certified organic varies across commodities produced and regions. Data from USDA’s organic regulatory program show that organic farm production and food-handling operations are concentrated in California (the country’s top fruit and vegetable producer), the Northeast (which has many small-scale organic farms), and the Upper Midwest (a major producer of organic milk). Northeastern States have the highest share of certified organic farmers, particularly Vermont and Maine, where about 5 to 6 percent of all farmers are certified organic. Organic processors, manufacturers, and other food-handling operations are concentrated around large metropolitan areas, while certified organic livestock operations are located predominantly in the Great Lakes region. The top 10 States for organic farm sales (see table to the right of chart) accounted for 78 percent of the total value of all U.S. certified organic commodities sold in 2015. California alone contributed 39 percent of total U.S. organic farm sales.

EVENTS/LEARNING

  1. Reviving Economic Activity on Former Manufacturing Sites | June 15, 2017 | 2:00 - 3:30 pm Eastern

In many places, the remnants of our manufacturing past are posing brownfield challenges today. As manufacturing production practices shifted and declined, many communities were left with closed factories, blighted properties, and contamination from past industrial activities. These former brownfields can be prime locations for new advanced manufacturing and maker movement innovation. Closed factories and industrial spaces are challenging assets to redevelop, but do present opportunities. Through best practices and case studies, this free webinar will examine how various experienced entities have brought brownfield sites back into productive use.

  1. 2.Free Webinar! Local Food: The Secret Ingredient for Vibrant Downtowns | Wednesday, June 14, 2017 from 2-3 p.m. Eastern

Whether you are a foodie or a farmer, local food is something to embrace. In small towns, the local food movement is doing more than putting meals on plates—it is nourishing economies by keeping farms vital and downtowns alive. Join the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design™ for a free hour-long webinar on how farmers’ markets and food co-ops are addressing their local community needs while stimulating downtown development.

  1. 3.Smart Growth America Publishes New Report on Statewide Disaster Recovery Strategies

Smart Growth America has released a new report, Building Resilient States: Profiles in Action.  It highlights several local, regional, and statewide resilience efforts in Colorado, Oregon, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, California, Ohio, New York, Florida, North Carolina, and Louisiana. Click here to learn more and download the report. 

  1. 4.Webinar and Paper on Early Involvement of Private Sector Developers in Consideration of P3s

The Build America Bureau, in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration’s Center (FHWA) for Innovative Finance Support, has released a discussion paper on Early Involvement of Private Developers in the Consideration of Long-Term Public-Private Partnership Concession Options.  This discussion paper draws upon past and current experiences to examine different mechanisms used by public agencies for involving private developers during the early stages of a project delivered through a Public-Private Partnership (P3).  The paper also evaluates consultative mechanisms used during project procurement and after contract award.  

This discussion paper is part of a P3 Toolkit consisting of tools and guidance documents to assist in educating transportation professionals as well as public sector policymakers and legislative and executive staff.  The objective of the paper is to identify approaches that have been effective in securing early input from the private sector to enhance opportunities for P3s. The Build America Bureau and FHWA also invite you to a webinar on Thursday, June 15, 2017 from 1:00pm to 2:30pm Eastern. 

Suzette's Letter, May 22, 2017

PUBLICATIONS

  1. 1.Rural Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse Toolkit
    This new toolkit, developed by the NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis, provides information, strategies, and resources to help rural communities implement substance abuse prevention and treatment programs. Browse program models and examples, and learn how to implement, evaluate, and sustain a program in your community and disseminate program results.
  1. 2.Survival rates of manufacturing plants vary by county type and ownership structure

Between the 2001 and 2007-09 recessions, U.S. manufacturing employment fell by close to 30 percent. In many communities, the closing of a manufacturing plant can reduce local employment, earnings, and government tax revenue. To improve understanding of the factors affecting the survival of manufacturing plants, ERS studied plant survival over a 15-year period (1996 to 2011). Over this period, the average survival rate—the share of plants that were still employers—in rural (nonmetro) counties was 57 percent. By comparison, plants in urban (metro) counties had an average survival rate of 53 percent during this period. Survival rates also varied by ownership structure: Overall, independent plants (single-unit plants with only one physical location) had a 59-percent survival rate, while multi-unit plants had a 50-percent survival rate. Independent plants located in rural counties had the highest average survival rate (62 percent). Although States and regions have long tended to put more effort into recruiting and retaining multi-unit plants, the research shows that independent plants are more likely to survive—in both rural and urban counties.

  1. 3.Households shopping at supermarkets, supercenters, and warehouse club stores have highest healthy basket scores

Over the past two decades, some store formats—including supercenters, dollar stores, and warehouse club stores—have increased their share of Americans’ spending on “at-home food”—food and beverages purchased from retail stores. Shifts between store formats could have implications for shopping patterns. A recent ERS study computed “healthy basket” scores for monthly at-home food and beverage purchases. The higher the score, the closer a household’s purchases aligned with healthy-diet expenditure shares. Baskets were categorized by the format accounting for the household’s largest share of food expenditures. Scores were highest for households predominantly shopping at warehouse club stores (8.3), supermarkets (8.2), and supercenters (8.0). Household food baskets dominated by purchases from drug stores, convenience stores, and dollar stores had the least healthful purchases. Over 2008-12, an average of 67 percent of households in the data predominantly shopped at supermarkets, 17 percent at supercenters, and 6 percent at warehouse club stores. The other 10 percent shopped predominately at drug, dollar, convenience, and other store formats.

 

  1. 4.Western irrigation has become more efficient over time

Efficient irrigation systems can help maintain farm profitability in an era of increasingly limited and more costly water supplies. More efficient gravity irrigation uses the force of gravity and field borders or furrows to distribute water across a field. It may also use laser-leveling to improve flood irrigation. More efficient pressure-sprinkler irrigation delivers water under lower pressure sprinklers and systems using drip/trickle tubes and micro-spray nozzles. The efficiency of irrigation systems is particularly important in the Western States—such as Nebraska, California, and Texas—where water demand for agriculture is greatest and diminishing water supplies are expected to affect future water availability. Data from USDA’s Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey (FRIS) show that irrigated agriculture in the West has become more efficient over time. More efficient irrigation systems (both gravity and pressure-sprinkler) were used on about 36 percent of total irrigated acres in the West in 1994, but increased to nearly half by 2013. More efficient pressure-sprinkler irrigation alone accounted for about 15 percent in 1994, but more than 37 percent in 2013. The share of acres using more efficient gravity systems peaked in the late 1990s, but then declined as farmers increasingly turned to the even more efficient pressure-sprinkler systems.

 

  1. 5.Rural school districts less likely to serve local food frequently in school meals

According to USDA’s 2013 Farm to School Census, 35 percent of all U.S. school districts reported serving local food in school meals during the 2011-12 school year. Twenty-two percent of all school districts served at least one locally-sourced food item daily or more than weekly, and 19 percent of school districts—containing 30 percent of U.S. school children—served local food daily. ERS researchers analyzed data from the Farm to School Census to identify which types of school districts were more likely versus less likely to serve local foods frequently in school meals. Rural school districts were 11.2 percentage points less likely to serve local food daily than school districts in cities, after accounting for other school district characteristics, such as region, enrollment level, per capita income of the surrounding county’s residents, and county-level density of farmers’ markets. School districts in suburbs and towns were also significantly less likely to serve local food daily compared to districts in cities.

  1. 6.Poorest U.S. households spent 33 percent of their incomes on food in 2015

While households spend more money on food as their incomes rise, food expenditures represent a smaller portion of income as households allocate additional funds to other goods. In 2015, U.S. households in the highest income quintile spent an average of $12,350 on food—both from grocery stores and eating out. This spending accounted for 8.7 percent of their incomes. Middle income households spent an average of $5,799 on food, or 12.4 percent of their incomes. Households in the lowest income quintile spent less for food on average—$3,767 in 2015—but their food expenditures accounted for 33 percent of their incomes. Two years earlier, the lowest income quintile spent 36.2 percent of their incomes on food. The share of income spent on food depends on several factors, including food prices and incomes. While retail food price inflation was relatively low in 2013, income levels were also lower than in 2015, contributing to the higher percent of income spent on food in 2013 by the lowest income households. Food expenditures as a share of income could fall in 2016 and 2017 across income levels due to declining retail food prices in 2016 and a continued trend downwards in prices for some foods in 2017.

  1. 7.Personal income grows, state ranks largely unchanged

According to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis state personal income data, national per capita income grew 4.0 percent from 2015 to 2016, and growth since 2012 is at 12.0 percent. States are experiencing this growth disparately, however, with five-year growth rates ranging from -0.6 percent (North Dakota) to 17.6 percent (California). Over this period, few states experienced significant changes in their performance relative to their peers — just four states moved more than five rankings — but shifts between income quintiles and variable growth rates suggest that more movement will be witnessed over the next few years.

  1. 8.Majority of Native Americans Live in Rural Areas and Small Towns, Not in Urban Areas as Commonly Reported, According to New “Twice Invisible” Report

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) today published a report that clears up a longstanding “urban legend” that has had a negative impact on Native communities. The report – Twice Invisible: Understanding Rural Native America – challenges the commonly held belief that the majority of American Indians and Alaska Natives live in cities and urban areas. The Twice Invisible report looks closely at Census data and uses a definition of “rural” areas developed by the Housing Assistance Council that is calculated with a formula that takes into account population and housing density. Using this definition, First Nations’ researchers found that 54% of American Indian and Alaska Native people, or a majority, live in rural and small-town areas on or near reservations, contrary to common myths. The report was authored by Dewees and Benjamin Marks, First Nations’ Senior Research Officer, and was made possible by support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Catalyzing Community Giving initiative. The full report can be downloaded from the Knowledge Center on the First Nations website here

  1. 9.SNAP participation more closely linked to poverty than unemployment rate

USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the Nation’s largest food assistance program. In an average month in fiscal 2016, 44.2 million people—about 14 percent of the Nation’s population—participated in the program. Unlike other food and nutrition assistance programs that target specific groups, SNAP is available to most needy households with limited income and assets, subject to certain work and immigration status requirements. As a means-tested program, the number of people eligible for SNAP is inherently linked to the health of the economy. The share of the population receiving SNAP benefits generally tracks the poverty rate and, to lesser degrees, the unemployment rate and the poverty rate for children under age 18. Improvement in economic conditions during the early stage of recovery may take longer to be felt by lower educated, lower wage workers who are more likely to receive SNAP benefits, resulting in a lagged response of SNAP participation to a reduction in the unemployment rate.

EVENTS/LEARNING

  1. 1.First Nations Ag Business Webinars

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) is offering a FREE three-part First Nations Knowledge webinar series that will help you manage and grow your agricultural business. These are perfect for existing Native farmers, ranchers and food producers, and will be especially helpful for entrepreneurs looking to launch an agriculture-related business. You do not need to attend all of the webinars in the series even though they build off of each other over the three-week period. However, we believe it would greatly benefit participants to tune into the complete series in chronological order. If that's not possible, the webinar recordings and materials will be posted soon after each one is completed under the "Previous Webinars" tab on the www.firstnations.org/fnk webpage. The first webinar in the series has been completed, but please register for each of the remaining webinars individually at the links below.

  • Webinar 1: (Completed) Understanding the Local Food System & Defining Your Ag-Business Opportunity | Held on Wednesday, May 17, 2017

This webinar provided an overview of the current status of the U.S. food system and explained how this impacts your tribal agricultural business opportunity. It reviewed case-study examples of tribally-controlled agricultural and local food enterprises. It also helped guide entrepreneurs through a process of exploring their personal motivation behind the ag-business concept and helped entrepreneurs’ define their personal and business goals. All of these facets will be combined to help the entrepreneur clearly develop a draft ag-business concept.

This webinar will build on Webinar 1 to help ag entrepreneurs understand the opportunities, as well as potential limitations, of their location and local foods market. We will also explore key concepts related to sales and marketing, including understanding local needs, defining your products and services, and selecting your distribution channels. All of these topics will be combined to help the entrepreneur develop a clear and focused marketing plan.

This webinar will build on the lessons learned in Webinars 1 & 2 to help ag entrepreneurs explore their risks and develop a plan for operational and staffing needs. We will also explore key financial principles and concepts such as investment requirements, pricing strategies, and operating expenses that are all directly related to profitability. We will also look toward the future to explore potential exit strategies. All of these topics will be combined to help the ag entrepreneur develop a clear and focused plan for operational and financial management.

  1. 2.Kresge Water-Systems Initiative to Invest in Sustainable Solutions

Kresge is bringing together staff from the Environment Program, Investments team, and Social Investment Practice to consider how they can use the full range of capital tools to advance a water-equity agenda that reflects the needs and priorities of low-income communities and supports solutions to address the climate-related impacts on water systems.

  1. Stanford Researchers Create "Living Map" of Water Financing Ideas

A team of researchers at Stanford has created a "Living Map" of innovative ways to finance water projects in the United States that they hope will help regions finance water infrastructure upgrades.

For more CED-related content please subscribe to the following:

Interagency Working Group on Cooperative Development

Cooperative Reports, Publications, and Statistics

Rural Cooperative Magazine

Placed Based Initiatives & Regional Programs

Community Economic Development

Suzette's Letter, April 19, 2017

PUBLICATIONS

  1. Strong foundations: the economic future of kids and communities
    Why would the Federal Reserve System, an institution that most of us only think about in terms of interest rates and monetary policy, care about a child's education or the environment he or she grows up in? Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said it all: "Ensuring that all of our kids have 'strong foundations' will help build a similarly strong foundation for the U.S. economy." See what the Fed is doing to help families and communities build these strong foundations
    here.
  1. Making a Big Impact with Local Philanthropy

When most of us think of philanthropy, we think big—big dollars, big foundations, big projects. But philanthropy also happens in small, but impactful ways. The concept was well summed up by Ed Aller, a florist from McComb, Ohio, who was a beneficiary of small town philanthropy: “We’re small enough to know people, but yet we're big enough to get things done.” In this blog post we highlight three examples of local philanthropy that made a difference in Community Heart & Soul® towns.

  1. Counting secondary operators triples the number of female operators

Females comprised nearly 14 percent of U.S. principal operators—the individual most responsible for the day-to-day decisions on the farm (or ranch)—in 2012. Considering additional, secondary operators as well as principal operators, however, gives a more complete picture of the involvement of females in farming. Including secondary operators more than triples the count of female farmers—from about 288,300 to nearly 970,000—and increases their share of farm operators to almost 31 percent. Including secondary operators has less of an effect on the number of male farmers, increasing their count by 21 percent, from about 1.8 to 2.2 million. Female secondary operators tend to be less involved in farming than female primary operators. About 33 percent of female secondary operators report farming as their major occupation, compared with 43 percent of female primary operators. Roughly 40 percent of secondary female operators work off-farm at least 200 days per year, slightly higher than the corresponding 35-percent estimate for female principal operators.

  1. State economic development efforts shifting

Traditional economic development efforts at the state level are undergoing increasing scrutiny as budgets are being constrained. Two new studies show a shift in focus away from traditional approaches of tax incentives and reliance on major employers, to broader strategies relying more on the private sector and human capital. A report released by the Delaware Economic Development Working Group recommends shifting many of the core responsibilities of the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO) to a new nonprofit. And a report focused on Indiana details the decline in footloose jobs in the state despite local government investments in business attraction, indicating a reevaluation of public policy is needed, the authors contend.

  1. Multinationals, deindustrialization, and regional economic development

Much has been written – both here and elsewhere – about the role of trade and automation in declining U.S. manufacturing employment. Recently released preliminary research published by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Center for Economic Studies finds U.S. multinationals were responsible for a disproportionate share of manufacturing employment declines from 1993 to 2011. These results underscore the challenges facing economic development in deindustrializing regions, particularly those reliant on the branch plant economy.

  1. Imports of fresh and processed vegetables make up an increasing share of domestic consumption
    Trade plays a vital part in both fresh and processed vegetable markets, one that has increased over time. The United States imports a larger amount of fresh and processed vegetables than it exports. This is in contrast with U.S. agricultural trade as a whole, which consistently runs a trade surplus (exports exceed imports). In 2000, fresh and processed vegetable imports represented 12 percent of domestic use each. By 2016, the import share of domestic use had increased to over 30 percent for fresh vegetables and 22 percent for processed vegetables. The export market for vegetables has grown at a slower pace. Processed vegetable exports doubled between 2000 and 2016 from 7 to 14 percent of domestic use, while fresh vegetables decreased from 7 percent in 2000 to 6 in 2016. Growth in vegetable and other food commodity imports has been driven by expanding domestic demand and reduced trade costs like shipping and tariffs. Consumer preferences for year-round availability of seasonal foods and for vegetables not commonly grown domestically have also played a role in rising import shares. Cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers are predominantly supplied by imports, while cauliflower has the largest export share.
  1. Number of new food and beverage products rebounded in 2016

Introducing “new” products—new package sizes, new flavors, new packaging, and truly new products—is one way that food and beverage companies try to woo consumers and increase sales. After 2 years of declining numbers of product introductions, 21,435 new foods and beverages made their debut on U.S. retail shelves in 2016—the largest annual number of product introductions since 2007. The number of new nonfood grocery items (beauty and personal care; health and hygiene; pet food and merchandise; and paper and cleaning products) increased in 2016 as well. During the Great Recession of 2008-09, consumers sought familiar products and avoided impulse buying. To appeal to bargain-seeking customers who wanted to simplify their shopping trips as well as purchase familiar products, retailers devoted less shelf space to new products. The number of new food and beverage products in U.S. retail outlets, as tracked by Mintel’s Global New Product Database, fell from 22,142 in 2007 to 15,637 in 2009. The number of new foods and beverages rose again in 2010, while new nonfood grocery items continued their downward trend until 2016.

  1. Ford Foundation Commits $1 Billion to Mission-Related Investing

The Ford Foundation has announced plans to commit up to $1 billion of its $12 billion endowment over ten years to mission-related investing — the largest commitment to MRIs by a private foundation to date.

Ford will carve out the funds gradually from its existing investment portfolio and deploy them over time to investments designed to deliver concrete social returns as well as attractive financial returns. Initial investments will focus on areas where the foundation has prior experience and sees both significant investment opportunity and alignment with its mission to reduce poverty and injustice — starting with affordable housing in the United States and access to financial services in emerging markets.

  1. Potential for High-Impact Philanthropy Untapped in South, Study Finds

Communities in the Deep South receive less philanthropic support than those in other parts of the United States, and only a small fraction of those funds supports policy reform or community organizing, a report from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and Grantmakers for Southern Progress finds.

The first in a series of reports about opportunities for philanthropy to improve the lives of underserved communities in the South, As the South Grows: On Fertile Soil (17 pages, PDF) found that, between 2010 and 2014, grantmaking by a thousand of the country's largest foundations averaged $41 per capita in the Alabama Black Belt and Mississippi Delta, compared with a national average of $451. And of the $55 million in total grantmaking to those two regions, only 16 percent was designated for community empowerment strategies. In the decades since the civil rights movement, national foundation interest in the rural South has waxed and waned, and foundations based in the region have focused on funding direct service work instead of systemic change strategies....

 

  1. Rural education levels are improving, but still lag urban areas

Compared with rural (nonmetro) areas, urban (metro) areas have historically had a higher share of adults with bachelor’s, postgraduate, and professional degrees. Between 2000 and 2015, the share of urban adults with at least a bachelor’s degree grew from 26 to 33 percent, while in rural areas the share grew from 15 to 19 percent. This gap may be due to the higher pay offered in urban areas to workers with college degrees. Rural areas have improved in terms of high school completion: The share of rural adults with less than a high school diploma dropped to 15 percent in 2015, close to the share for urban adults (13 percent). The share of adults with an associate’s degree and some college, no degree were also similar in rural and urban areas.

 

  1. SNAP participation and per person benefits both fell in 2016

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the cornerstone of USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs, accounting for 69 percent of all Federal food and nutrition assistance spending in fiscal 2016. An average 44.2 million people per month participated in the program in fiscal 2016, 3 percent fewer than the previous fiscal year and the third consecutive year of declining participation. Fiscal 2016’s caseload was the fewest SNAP participants since fiscal 2010 and 7 percent less than the 47.6 million participants per month in fiscal 2013. The decrease in 2016 was likely due in part to the country’s continued economic growth as well as the reinstatement in many States of the time limit—3 months of SNAP benefits within any 3-year period—on participation for able-bodied adults without dependents. Per person benefits averaged $125.51 per month in fiscal 2016, 1 percent less than the previous fiscal year and 6 percent less than the historical high of $133.85 set in fiscal 2011.

  1. //foundationcenter.hosted.strongview.com/t/gcgbbFNoQAJOfXhD6a2-tFGZ5aaaa2-tBMOH1Leaa?n=7@x6z-1&j=Wnlomzivbkl.vluWzix%25y6qjW.0mjU.mi1&;f=La&3=&l=vhjhkqyw6vBu-u-" target="_blank">Impact Investments in Creative Economy Poised for Growth, Study Finds

A focus on providing impact investments in the creative economy could help stabilize vulnerable communities and attract quality jobs to struggling regions of the country, a report from the //foundationcenter.hosted.strongview.com/t/gcgbbFNoQAJOfXhD6a2-tFGZ5aaaa2-tBMOH1Leaa?n=7@x6z-1&j=Wnlomzivbkl.vluWzix%25y6qjW.0mjU.mi1&;f=Lb&3=&l=vhjhkqyw6vBu-u-" target="_self">Calvert Foundation and //foundationcenter.hosted.strongview.com/t/gcgbbFNoQAJOfXhD6a2-tFGZ5aaaa2-tBMOH1Leaa?n=7@x6z-1&j=Wnlomzivbkl.vluWzix%25y6qjW.0mjU.mi1&;f=Lc&3=&l=vhjhkqyw6vBu-u-" target="_self">Upstart Co-Lab finds. Funded by the //foundationcenter.hosted.strongview.com/t/gcgbbFNoQAJOfXhD6a2-tFGZ5aaaa2-tBMOH1Leaa?n=7@x6z-1&j=Wnlomzivbkl.vluWzix%25y6qjW.0mjU.mi1&;f=Ld&3=&l=vhjhkqyw6vBu-u-" target="_self">John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the report, //foundationcenter.hosted.strongview.com/t/gcgbbFNoQAJOfXhD6a2-tFGZ5aaaa2-tBMOH1Leaa?n=7@x6z-1&j=Wnlomzivbkl.vluWzix%25y6qjW.0mjU.mi1&;f=Le&3=&l=vhjhkqyw6vBu-u-" target="_self">Creative Places & Businesses: Catalyzing Growth in Communities (55 pages, PDF), found that while impact investment in the creative economy to date has occurred largely under the radar, the opportunity to generate financial gain and social impact through art, culture, design, and innovation has never been greater. The study identified twenty-six projects in fourteen states with to tal project costs of $1.54 billion seeking impact investment capital between 2017 and 2022, including $338 million in debt financing provided by community development financial institutions and community lenders and $1.13 billion in impact and conventional equity, tax credits, and similar subsidies. Wealth advisors also confirmed to researchers that impact investors are eager to invest in the arts, creative businesses, and so-called creative places — which it defines as multi-tenant affordable real estate projects targeting creatives and benefiting their neighbors....

  1. Schools serve a variety of locally-produced foods daily or more than weekly

Frequent use of local foods in school meals can bolster the market for local agricultural producers and increase student awareness and interest in healthier foods. In school year 2011-12, more than one in five U.S. school districts (22 percent) served at least one locally-sourced food item daily or weekly. The most popular local food categories were milk (offered daily or more than weekly by 15.4 percent of school districts), fruit (offered by 14.5 percent of districts), and vegetables (offered by 12.2 percent of districts). Locally-produced baked goods, meat, and eggs were also served frequently by some districts. A recent ERS report examined characteristics of school districts that frequently serve local foods. Districts more likely to serve local foods daily tended to be larger, in the Northeast, in urban areas, and in States where residents had higher rates of college completion.

  1. Decline in farm share of U.S. food dollar mirrors drop in farm commodity prices

On average, U.S. farmers received 15.6 cents for farm commodity sales from each dollar spent on domestically-produced food in 2015, down from 17.2 cents in 2014. Known as the farm share, this amount is at its lowest level since 2006, and coincides with a steep drop in 2015 average prices received by U.S. farmers, as measured by the Producer Price Index for farm products. ERS uses input-output analysis to calculate the farm and marketing shares from a typical food dollar, including food purchased at grocery stores and at restaurants, coffee shops, and other eating out places. 2015 was the fourth consecutive year that the farm share has declined, but the 2015 decline was substantially more than in the three previous years. The drop in farm share also coincides with four consecutive years of increases in the share of food dollars paying for services provided by the foodservice industry. Since farmers receive a smaller share from eating out dollars, due to the added costs for preparing and serving meals, more food-away-from-home spending will also drive down the farm share.

  1. NY launches tuition-free college education for New Yorkers

On April 8, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the Excelsior Scholarship program will be included in the state’s FY 2018 budget, after having been approved by the legislature. In its first year, the state will commit $163 million to provide tuition-free options for New Yorkers from ‘middle-class’ families at the state’s public institutions of higher education. Under the Excelsior Scholarship program, students can attend any of the colleges or universities that comprise the State University of New York and the City University of New York systems. After completing their degree, the scholarship requires that recipients must work or live in the state after graduation for the same number of years that they receive support.

EVENTS/LEARNING

  1. Webinar: Economic Development for the Next Generation

Hear Zachary Mannheimer on how creative placemaking creates vibrant, attractive communities with viable business models, enthusiastic investors, and dynamic programs with an eye towards attracting and retaining the younger generation. This 60-minute webinar recorded March 23 is co-hosted with the Citizens' Institute on Rural Design™.

  1. Rural Gateway Peer-to-Peer Conference Call: Rural Economic Development and Infrastructure: A Discussion of Best Practices

The Office of Rural Housing and Economic Development (ORHED) invites you to take part in our next Peer-to-Peer conference call. Scheduled for April 19, 2017, this call will offer participants the opportunity to learn about available funding opportunities through the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development (USDA-RD), the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) for economic development and infrastructure activities.

  1. HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Webinar

A Rural Behavioral Health Webinar Series is offered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Mental Health Promotion Branch, Division of Prevention, Traumatic Stress, and Special Programs, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in collaboration with the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The next webinar is “Providing Culturally and Linguistically Competent Behavioral Health Services to Diverse Populations in Rural Communities,” May 17, 2017, 3:00 to 4:30 PM EDT. Other topics in the series are: “Responding to Natural Disasters in Rural Communities,” June 21, 2017, 3:00 to 4:30 PM EDT; and “A Focus on Suicide Prevention in Rural Communities,” August 16, 2017, 3:00 to 4:30 PM EDT.

Suzette's Letter, March 17, 2017

PUBLICATIONS

  1. 1.Public and private sectors specialize in different areas of agricultural research

Both the public and private sectors fund agricultural research and development (R&D), but focus on different areas. The private sector specializes in areas where R&D results in improved commercial products and services, particularly food and feed manufacturing as well as farm machinery and engineering. The public sector, in contrast, conducts most of the R&D on areas that have social value, but do not result in easily sold products. These areas include environment and natural resources and human nutrition and food safety. The public and private sectors conduct significant research on plant systems and crop protection as well as on animal systems and animal health. However, a closer inspection reveals that each sector invests in these areas differently. Much of the private R&D on plant and animal systems aims at new commercial products like agricultural pesticides and veterinary pharmaceuticals. In contrast, public R&D focuses on topics like improving field practices and studying pest populations, animal pathogens, and soil attributes.

  1. 2.A declining share of SNAP households contain children

In fiscal 2015, USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provided 22.5 million low-income U.S. households with monthly benefits to supplement their resources for buying food. Of these households, 42.7 percent had children, 20.2 percent had a nonelderly member receiving disability benefits, and 19.6 percent contained an elderly person. The share of SNAP households with children is down from 54.7 percent in 2003, while the shares of SNAP households with an elderly member or a nonelderly member receiving Federal or State disability benefits have remained relatively constant. The fall in the share of SNAP households with children may reflect the increase in participation of households without children due to the tough economic times that accompanied the 2007-09 recession and policy changes that allowed more non-child households to be eligible for SNAP.

  1. 3.Innovations solving higher education challenges

In a world where disruptive innovation can change an entire industry, higher education has remained largely unaffected, according to a recent paper from The Christensen Institute. Innovations in higher education traditionally have centered on changes that allowed the industry to remain competitive and meet new challenges by pushing forward along established trajectories, such as building new buildings or adding new majors. But with technological changes moving deeper into the higher education field, traditional institutions are facing a greater challenge. As those institutions face rising tuition costs, declining state support and affordability issues due to weak wage growth, their business model is vulnerable to threats from larger disruptions. How they choose to respond may determine their future success.

  1. 4.Million-dollar farms accounted for over half of production in 2015

Agricultural production has been shifting to larger farms for many years. Farms with over $1 million in gross cash farm income (GCFI) accounted for half of the value of U.S. farm production in 2015, up from about a third in 1991. Most million-dollar farms (90 percent) are family farms; only 10 percent are nonfamily farms. Larger million-dollar farms (over $5 million in GCFI) nearly doubled their share of production between 1991 and 2015. Smaller million-dollar farms (GCFI between $1 million and $4,999,999) increased their share from 19 percent to 29 percent. This marks a shift in the share of production from small farms (GCFI under $350,000). Small farms accounted for 46 percent of production in 1991; by 2015, they accounted for less than 25 percent. Farmers who take advantage of ongoing innovations to expand their operations can reduce costs and raise profits because they can spread their investments over more acres.

  1. 5.A positive ROI for Regional Innovation Strategies

Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) funding is showing signs of a positive return on investment, according to recently published results by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA). RIS, an initiative within EDA’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation (OIE), supports innovation-based and cluster-focused activities that seek to spur job creation and economic growth. In just two years, RIS awardees have leveraged $1.30 for every federal dollar requested and created nearly 1,000 jobs, according to the EDA.

EVENTS/LEARNING

  1. 1.Leveraging I-Corps for your region’s innovation economy

How prepared are your initiatives to exploit the I-Corps opportunity and integrate successful outcomes into your innovation strategy? Join SSTI and a panel of practitioners from Columbia University and TechGROWTH Ohio for an honest and interactive discussion about the program’s potential, its early impacts and ideas for how best to leverage I-Corps to achieve even greater economic outcomes in your region. Wednesday, March 22, 3:45 p.m. EDT

 

  1. 2.Community colleges as drivers of entrepreneurship

Regional innovation economies thrive when a variety of institutions promote entrepreneurship. This joint webinar between SSTI and NACCE will focus on Iowa’s approach to regional innovation, which incorporates the state, industry, universities and community colleges as key partners for a thorough approach to entrepreneurial development. Join us to learn about the Hawkeye state and to discuss tools you can apply to your own region or institution. Thursday, April 20, 3 p.m. EDT

  

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