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Suzette's Letter, March 17, 2017


  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.


  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

Suzette's Letter, February 28, 2017


  1. 1.First Nations Report Highlights Economic Impact of Tribal Colleges in Northwest Area Foundation's Eight-State Region

A new report from First Nations Development Institute finds that tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) contribute significantly to both short- and long-term economic development in reservation-based Native communities. The study covered TCUs in the Northwest Area Foundation’s eight-state region. The report – The Economic Impact of Tribal Colleges in the Northwest Area Foundation Region — is the first in a new series of short publications called Research Notes that will keep the field updated with timely research about Indian Country. This inaugural report in the series was authored by Benjamin Marks, First Nations Senior Research Officer.

  1. 2.Hoeven Delivers Congressional Response to 2017 State of Indian Nations Address
    The Congressional Response, given by Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), to the 2017 State of Indian Nations address. Hoeven, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, touches on healthcare access and quality, veterans' health, homelessness and overcrowding, economic development as it relates to quality of life, the safety and well-being of children in foster care, and resources for victims of violent crimes, among other things.


  1. 1.First Nations Native Arts Initiative Application Q&A Session

First Nations will award up to 15 Supporting Native Arts grants of up to $32,000 each to support projects that aim to strengthen the organizational infrastructure and/or arts programming of Native museums and cultural centers, Native-controlled nonprofit organizations, and tribal government programs. Eligible applicants must have existing program initiatives in place that support Native American artists and traditional Native art forms. An informational session will be held on Thursday, March 2, 2017 to learn more about this grant opportunity and the application process!

  1. Local Innovation Strengthening Economies

The Center for Rural Entrepreneurship is an active member of the Rural Development Innovation Group (RDIG), which is made up of rural development practitioners, intermediaries and others who have been deeply involved in advancing rural community and economic development. RDIG is co-sponsoring with The Aspen Institute a 6-part series of panel conversations focused on advancing a rural opportunity agenda, America's Rural Opportunity. Each panel features rural innovators who, together with their partners, are working to create economic opportunities for rural people, businesses and communities. Here's a snapshot of the first and second sessions:

  • Local Innovation Strengthening Economies, Feb. 10. Read about this session and watch the recorded livestream HERE.
  • Supporting Entrepreneurial Economies, Mar. 17. For details about this session, click HERE. Spots are available in-person in Washington, D.C. or via live feed. While free, reservations for both are required. You can also follow this session on Twitter and Facebook by using #ruralinnovation.

There will be 2 more sessions this spring and 2 in the fall. We will share the topics and dates as soon as they are available!

Suzette's Letter, February 1, 2017


The U.S. Department of Education’s Place Based Initiative Pilot Team, Office of Innovation and Improvement( OII)  and Performance Partnership Pilot Team, Office Career Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) are excited to share a recently released resource titled Family and School Partnership, that is focused on building and improving these valuable relationships.  Educators are increasingly aware that schools alone cannot raise student achievement and research has demonstrated that family involvement is one of the strongest predictors of school success. Many schools and districts are pursuing strategies to deepen their relationships with families and communities to improve student outcomes. Simply put, students are more successful in school and life when their families are engaged in their education. This document highlights the importance of family engagement and family-school partnerships.   It provides schools and their partners with a jumping off point with an overview of key research, best practices, and funding sources, as well as profiles of how two communities are working to improve family engagement.  These efforts incorporate a variety of strategies for schools to employ to welcome and work with families, and for educators and families to use to collaborate effectively. The document also identifies resources to inform and support local action on building effective family-school partnerships.

  1. Regions win through comprehensive workforce development strategy

With job growth for middle-skill level jobs slowing, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and Austin-based nonprofit Center for Public Policy Priorities studied the nation’s best practices and surveyed regional workforce boards in Texas to determine how communities there are addressing the challenge. Their findings are detailed in the report, Regional Talent Pipelines: Collaborating with Industry to Build Opportunities in Texas, released last month. For a region to succeed in their workforce development efforts, the study states three tasks must be accomplished: identify growth through an industry cluster analysis, convene a sector partnership, and create and strengthen career pathways.

  1. Educational Attainment Rates Remain Lower for Rural Minorities
    Chart showing educational attainment by race/ethnicity for rural adults 25 years of age and older, using 2015 American Community Survey data.
    Sponsoring organization: USDA Economic Research Service
    Date: 01/2017
  1. Housing Needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives in Tribal Areas: A Report From the Assessment of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian Housing Needs
    Provides an overview of housing conditions and needs among American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) households in tribal areas. Includes AI/AN demographic, social, and economic characteristics. Also discusses housing produced by tribes using HUD housing funds available through the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA) of 1996.
    Sponsoring organization: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  1. Findings from the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) 2013-2014: A Demographic and Employment Profile of United States Farmworkers
    Reports on demographic and employment characteristics of hired agricultural workers in the United States. Includes data on health insurance and healthcare access, as well as information on social determinants of health such as income, education level, language skills, and housing. Based on data collected from face-to-face interviews with 4,235 crop farmworkers conducted between October 1, 2012 and September 30, 2014.
    Sponsoring organization: U.S. Department of Labor
    Date: 12/2016
  1. Pine Ridge Agriculture Economy (PRAE)
    Describes the initiative on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to enhance the economy of the reservation through job creation. Initiative was designed to help families achieve an acceptable standard of living while utilizing technology and effective value-added techniques, to incorporate sustainable and natural resource conservation, attract individuals to agriculture, and support self-sufficiency, while also creating a sustainable and healthy food supply for the community.
    Sponsoring organization: U.S. Department of Agriculture
    Date: 01/2017
  1. Veterans in Rural America: 2011-2015
    Reports detailed demographic, social, and economic characteristics of rural veterans, based primarily on 2011–2015 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates. Includes comparisons of rural veterans to both urban veterans and rural nonveterans. Topics addressed include health insurance coverage, disability status and service-connected disability, and use of VA healthcare.
    Sponsoring organization: U.S. Census Bureau
    Date: 01/2017
  1. Rural counties’ economies depend on different industries

Local economies and employment levels are more sensitive to economic trends that have a pronounced effect on their leading industries. For example, trends in agricultural prices have a disproportionate impact in farming-dependent counties, which accounted for nearly 20 percent of all rural counties and 6 percent of the rural population in 2015. The boom in U.S. oil and natural gas production increased employment in many mining-dependent rural counties; more recently, lower oil and gas prices have led to reduced oil exploration and economic activity in these counties. Meanwhile, the decline in manufacturing employment has particularly affected manufacturing-dependent counties, which accounted for about 18 percent of rural counties and 23 percent of the rural population.

  1. Access and Inclusion in the Digital Age

A new resource guide for communities on high-speed internet access and digital inclusion has been released by the National Resource Network (NRN), which provides technical assistance as part of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Initiative. NRN partner organization ICMA and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) led a group of six U.S. cities (Chattanooga, Tennessee; Gonzales, California; Greensboro, North Carolina; New Orleans, Louisiana; Springfield, Missouri; and Youngstown, Ohio) in a first-of-its-kind partnership to develop the resource guide, Access and Inclusion in the Digital Age. Access and Inclusion in the Digital Age is designed to support U.S. communities of all sizes and geographies in advancing their goals for high-speed Internet access and digital inclusion. Representatives of the six cities communicated regularly about the broadband Internet access and digital literacy initiatives underway in their communities, highlighting major obstacles encountered and key lessons learned. By sharing information on programs, practices, challenges, and opportunities from their own communities, these six cities were


  1. Coursera launches MOOCs for governments, nonprofits targeting workforce-development

Online-education provider Coursera has announced a new program that allows governments and nonprofits focused on workforce development to curate massive open online course (MOOCs) that align with labor market needs, and then make these courses instantly available to their constituents. Initial partners of Coursera for Governments & Nonprofits include the United States and six other nations:  Egypt, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Pakistan, and Singapore.

  1. 2.HUD Launches New Community Investment Tool

HUD has launched the Community Assessment Reporting Tool (CART), which is an online tool that generates a snapshot of HUD’s investments at the community level. The tool provides an interactive mapping interface that allows users to explore HUD investments within their community and see property- and grant-level detail at a variety of geographies.

  1. Department of Education announced FY2017 TA Opportunities

In November, the Department of Education’s Place Based Office held a session just for Promise Zones at the Promise Neighborhoods Convening. After conducting individual interviews with Promise Zone education partners on their priorities and challenges, ED launched a TA package via webinar in early December that will include affinity and peer cohorts on two-generation strategies, trauma informed care and community schools (the PowerPoint slides and on-pager are attached). In March 2017, ED plans to host a convening in Baltimore for the Peer Action and Learning Network- Community Schools, and a collective impact convening in June in Washington, DC.

  1. Children’s Defense Fund/AASA Toolkit Webinar

The Children’s Defense Fund and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, hosted a webinar on November 30th to provide valuable information on how to support outreach and enroll uninsured students in your community. The webinar referenced the Healthy Students Promising Futures Learning Collaborative, a federal publication focused on state and local action steps and practices to improve school-based health. The recorded webinar can be found here.

  1. USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Webinars

AMS will host a webinar for potential FMPP and LFPP grant applicants on Wednesday, February 15, 2017, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time, and a teleconference for potential FSMIP grant applicants on Thursday, February 16, 2017, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time.  For more information about FSMIP, FMPP and LFPP, visit: www.ams.usda.gov/AMSgrants.  The website also contains a link to a grants decision tree, "What AMS Grant is Right for ME?” to help applicants determine which AMS grant fits their project best. AMS will also host a webinar to introduce potential applicants to Grants.gov on Wednesday, February 8, 2017, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time.  Applicants are urged to start the Grants.gov registration process as soon as possible to ensure that they meet the deadline and encouraged to submit their applications well in advance of the posted due date.  Any grant application submitted after the due date will not be considered unless the applicant provides documentation of an extenuating circumstance that prevented their timely submission of the grant application, read more on AMS Late and Non-Responsive Application Policy

Suzette's Letter, December 16, 2016


  1. Rural America at a Glance, 2016 Edition
    A report that provides an overview of social and economic factors affecting rural America. Includes data and statistics about employment, population, poverty, and income trends.
    Sponsoring organization: USDA Economic Research Service


  1. Small-Scale Manufacturers See New Markets Tax Credits as Future Hope

The Community Development Financial Institutions Fund announced it was awarding an unprecedented amount of tax credits to investors focused on job creation and other economy boosters in communities hit hard by poverty. The amount of the credits, known as New Markets Tax Credits, totaled $7 billion, with about 60 percent of that going to urban areas.

  1. EDA Proposes New Rules for RLF Program

EDA is proposing important changes to the regulations governing the RLF program that are intended to reflect current best practices and strengthen EDA's efforts to evaluate, monitor, and improve RLF performance.

  1. How to Do Creative Placemaking: An Action-Oriented Guide to Arts in Community Development

In its ongoing commitment to producing resources for community engagement with the arts, the National Endowment for the Arts has published How to Do Creative Placemaking: An Action-Oriented Guide to Arts in Community Development. The book features 28 essays from thought leaders active in arts-based community development as well as 13 case studies of projects funded through the NEA’s creative placemaking program, Our Town.

  1. Energy Department Initiatives Create Opportunities for Efficiency, Innovation

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced the Zero Energy Districts Accelerator, an initiative to develop best practices for establishing commercial districts that have net-neutral energy consumption. The accelerator is now one of 12 listed under the Better Buildings Initiative, which also includes dedicated programming for community and manufacturing initiatives. DOE’s most recent annual report finds that collectively, Better Buildings programs saved 160 trillion Btus of energy and 2.3 billion gallons of water while collecting more than 400 resources on implementation processes and technologies through 2015. Read more...


  1. 1.Webinar Series Will Get You Ready and Set to “GO” on a Community Food Sovereignty Assessment

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has scheduled a new series of four free First Nations Knowledge webinars that will help Native organizations and tribal communities get ready and set to “GO” on conducting a Community Food Sovereignty Assessment, with the last in the series focusing on moving forward with action planning after the assessment. Please register for each webinar individually:

  • January 17, 2017 @ 1:00 p.m. MST
    "Moving Forward! Community-Based Policy and Action Plans"

    Developing action plans from the CFSA data; experience gained through community engagement during the CFSA. This webinar will highlight success stories from two organizations or tribes.  Register here:




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