Policy Projects

Multi-State Rural Development Research or Extension Projects
The North Central Regional Center for Rural Development (NCRCRD) at Michigan State University competition for seed grants aimed at enhancing the ability of Land Grant institutions to positively influence the quality of life in rural areas of the North Central region of the United States. These are single or multiple-investigator projects, and must be led by personnel from a land grant institution within the 12 North Central States. 

Land Grant graduate students and others not employed by land-grants may join a project led by an eligible land grant employee. A list of eligible institutions is available on the website.

FY 16-17 Policy Projects:

Economic Impacts of at Risk Pension Funds
Miller, S (Michigan State University); Deller, S. (University of Wisconsin) and Judith Stallmann, University of Missouri

Pension funds, both private and public (particularly state and local government), however are under severe pressure.  Many of these funds have been underfunded with both employers and state and local governments deferring payments.  At the same time the lingering effects of the financial crisis embodied in the Great Recession and record low interest rates have resulted in pension funds unable to meet their obligations.  The Central States Pension Fund, for example, was on the brink of declaring insolvency in 2014 with pension payment obligations far outstripping its ability to pay.  Several companies that paid into the Central States Pension Fund on behalf of their teamster employees have cut back on those payments or gone bankrupt forcing the fund to pay around $2 billion more annually then it should.  To remain solvent many pension funds are reducing promised payments to pensioners. The proposed research project will take place in two stages.  The first stage is to compile and organize what is currently known about the current “pension crisis” with an eye toward rural American and the northcentral region in particular.  Beyond national averages, to what extent is rural America exposed to the “pension crisis”?  In the second stage we plan to estimate the potential economic impact reductions in pensions will have on a representative set of rural counties located in the northcentral region. 
Awarded $10,000  Policy Project

14-15 Policy Projects:

Producing Energy, Protecting Food: The Impact of Shale Energy Development on Food Access in Rural Communities
Betz, M. (The Ohio State University) - Co PI: Clark, J. (The Ohio State University)
Awarded $10,000 Policy Brief

Shale energy development is transforming rural communities in many parts of the US, including eastern Ohio. The range of impacts on these communities from the influx of people and money has only begun to be investigated. In rural areas, food access has become a concern, as population losses have resulted in fewer retail grocery establishments. This makes it extremely difficult for those living in rural areas to eat a healthy and balanced diet as they deal with the time and resource tradeoffs of accessing great food. The flood of workers and economic activity associated with shale development may have differential impact on rural food access for original residents over the short and long term. Research will be done to study how sudden increases in population affects retail food access for original residents over the short and long term and how Ohio’s experience might differ from less population-dense shale plays, such as North Dakota and Pennsylvania. As a result of research, the goal is to build local capacity for community leaders to deal with the impact that shale development will have on food access through a policy brief and webinar.

Assessing Strategies for Water Supply in Bakken Region
Hearne, R. (North Dakota State University)

Awarded $14,395 Policy Brief

North Dakota’s oil boom requires large quantities of water for fracking and drilling operations and the communities in this semi-arid region need to maintain water supply for their growing populations and service sectors. The water available to meet these needs is limited, and perhaps uncertain, due to: disputes between the US Army Corps of Engineering (USACE) and the state of North Dakota about the allocation of Lake Sakakawea water, and restrictions on water market transfers toward industrial uses. This research will assess alternative policies to address the water needs for the oil production and drilling operation in western North Dakota. The objective is to determine which policies, if permanently adopted, would bring the greatest long-term net benefits to western North Dakota.

Anticipatory Planning: Protections of Rural Culture and Physical Landscapes
Fischer, H. (North Dakota State University) - Co PI: Fischer, D. (North Dakota State University)

Awarded $11,112 Policy Brief

The rural town development trends of natural resource extraction require preservation planning methods by which the physical, cultural, and historic content of the town is conserved through the boom, bust and recovery cycle. Exponential growth of many rural North Dakota agrarian communities is imminent, and the development of the 200,000-square mile Bakken Oil formation in North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, underlines an arc of physical implications that can be seen from space; however, little has been done to prepare rural communities for the surge of growth. Using a cross-disciplinary research method combining macro-scale mapping of the Bakken region with expert and local interviews, NDSU researchers will explore resource-based town dynamics, analyze available preservation resources, and recommend preservation-planning solutions for the social, historical, physical, and economic environment in rural cultural landscapes.  

Energy Boom and Bust Labor Market Impacts and Strategies
Ripplinger, D. (North Dakota State University)

Awarded $15,000 Policy Brief

Strategies to manage labor market impacts of fracking booms and busts will be developed and communicated. Strategies will be informed by a literature review of boom and bust cycles and their impacts on labor markets as well as labor-related community development strategies, and an analysis of changes in employment and wages in the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana using a triple difference approach. Extension programming and materials will be developed, delivered, and evaluated.

FY 13-14

Tribal Land Leases under the HEARTH Act
Henry, G (Michigan State University)
Awarded $15,000

In 2012 the United States government passed the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership Act. As part of that act American Indian tribes are permitted to lease previously restricted tribal lands for residential, commercial, public, religious, recreational or educational purposes without going through the United States Secretary of the Interior. For this project the NAI at Michigan State University will research ways in which the tribes within the twelve state purview of the NCRCRD have used this law.

Funding and Sustaining Local Food Systems in Eight Midwest Communities
Naeve, L. (Iowa State University)
Awarded $14,530


Around the country, farmers, entrepreneurs, parents, students, community organizers, and activists are developing unique programs to develop food systems that are economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable. These programs are funded, supported and sustained in a variety of modes. According to The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s Guide to USDA Funding for Local and Regional Food Systems (2010), successful local and regional food initiatives offer models that can be replicated and lead to large-scale systems change. The goal of this project is to increase awareness of various funding opportunities for sustainable local food systems in rural Midwest communities.

The Opportunities and Challenges of Sustaining Community Food Systems
Rice, T. (Kansas State University)
Awarded $12,690

Interest in community based food systems is at an all-time high! In communities across the north central region community groups and individuals are using this language and or approach to address critical issues such as entrepreneurship, land use, environmental sustainability, health and wellness. It is important to approach this issue using a combination of research, teaching, and community practices.

Alternative Funding for Food Systems Development
Francis, C. (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
Awarded $15,000

Nebraskans spend $4.4 billion on food each year. Yet only 10 percent stays in our state. This project is a portion of an extensive project that attempts to answer the question: How do we keep more of our food dollars in our own state and local economy? 

The Soo Locks, Mining and Impacts on Rural Communities
Kakela, P. (Michigan State University)
Awarded $15,000


The Soo Locks are a critical link in the U.S. Mid-West commerce.  They connect rural communities, where these commodities are located, to national and global markets.  This proposal seeks to identify the regions in the NC area where mining is underway and look at routes of distribution for national and global sale, examine the impact on rural communities, including economics, demographics and commodity ownership trends. We will also look at state and local policies and how they are changing and impacting rural outcomes. 

On the Consequences of Four Day School Weeks
Mykerezi, E. (University of Minnesota)
Awarded $15,000


Many rural school districts nationwide have switched from a regular 5-day school week to a 4-day school week. In Minnesota, the number of schools districts switching to a 4-day school week went from zero to thirteen since late 2008, and dozens of school districts are now considering a switch. The proposed study will examine the impact the 4-day school week has had on student outcomes, household behaviors, student achievement and impacts on student risk factors, and other health related factors.

FY 2011-12

Investigating Better Alternatives for MarketMaker Database
Lee, J.S. (Illinois State University)

MarketMaker has various schemas of data. The same type of data may have different schemas. For Example, the business profile type for Farmer/Rancher is very different from the type of Fishery. The issue with this characteristic is raised when users want to search across different types of business profiles. This uniqueness of the MarketMaker data has been solved in traditional Relational database. However, due to the nature of relational database, scalability is a challenge as is the addition of new classes of profiles.

Market Make Enhancement Project
Hansen, R. (Iowa State University)

The study conducted by Iowa State University in cooperation with Iowa Work Force Development underscored the need for a technology solution to better connect ag and food workers where there is a demand. The related  Iowa based pilot project resulted in a prototype “ jobs portal”  on the MarketMaker platform that virtually connects MM users, Workforce Development facilitators and workers to one another. The early results have been exciting and we are already taking next steps to scale up the feature to neighboring states. We envision this portal becoming the technology bridge that will allow state based Work Force Development Groups to coordinate employment needs across state boundaries.

Profiles Using Socio-Economic Data for Economic and Community Development Decision Making
Otto, D. (Iowa State University)

Accessible and up‐to‐date socio‐economic data are important for sound community decision making in a variety of settings. Effective economic and community development projects rely on relevant and available data to assess readiness and need for projects, to analyze feasibility of possible strategies and to evaluate impacts of the efforts. This project illustrates and documents how secondary data sets produced and/or maintained by public agencies can be used to better inform community decision making for a variety of alternative economic and community development projects.

Food Systems Indicators Profiles (See Portal at: foodsystems.wisc.edu)
Brown, L., Deller, S., & Haines, A. (University of Wisconsin)

The goal of the project was to develop and publish an online food systems profile tool using existing secondary data sources to: 1) help county based educators and community leaders better understand the local/regional food system in a systematic way in the North Central Region, 2) understand how key indicators are changing over time, 3) identify opportunities for growth or expansion in regional food systems through the use of food and agricultural industry cluster analysis.