Iowa receives $560,000 grant for sustainable food production

Posted April 7, 2003

A Glance at the PNMWG

The Pork Niche Market Working Group, or PNMWG, is a model for what the Value Chain Partnership project hopes to create in several areas during the next two years.

The PNMWG grew out of a September 2001 pork niche marketing workshop organized by the Leopold Center and the Iowa Pork Industry Center. More than 130 people attended the one-day meeting, which included a second day for a smaller group interested in working together. The PNMWG officially began January 2002 and in the time since, it has gained momentum and participants.

According to PNMWG coordinator Gary Huber, accomplishments during the first year include:

  • Participation by more than 30 partners (including ISU academic departments and colleges, nonprofit and commodity organizations) who meet regularly to discuss challenges in niche pork markets
  • Funding for five new research and development projects totaling $34,000
  • Raising more than $160,000 in grants from the USDA and other sources to help with niche pork markets
  • Publication of a newsletter six times a year
  • Serving as catalyst to encourage and assist the National Pork Board in designing a project to farrow pigs in deep-bedded, open-air facilities
  • Initial conversations with the ISU College of Veterinary Medicine and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians for more herd health support for producers using alternative production systems
  • Working with the SYSCO Corporation to discuss ways that farmers, private industry and ISU can address challenges of niche pork marketing
AMES, Iowa: Iowa State University has received a $559,990 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan, that will help build new food supply networks for sustainably raised Iowa foods.

The grant, part of the Kellogg Foundation’s Food and Society Initiative, will continue work on developing new niche markets for Iowa pork, and launch research and development activities to market local and regional foods as well as products for a new bio-based economy in Iowa.

The project, “Value Chain Partnerships for a Sustainable Agriculture,” will be directed by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Other partners are Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI), Iowa State University Extension, ISU College of Agriculture and the Henry A. Wallace Endowed Chair for Sustainable Agriculture at ISU.

“Value Chain Partnerships” focuses on markets for small and midsize farmers who use production practices that follow very high standards of environmental and community stewardship. Also key is using collaborative approaches and ISU’s research capacity to establish a value chain equitably among producers, processors, distributors and retailers.

“This project brings together all types of farmers, commodity groups, non-profit agencies and the
university community to address some of the challenges found in these promising markets for food and other products,” said project director Rich Pirog of the Leopold Center. “We know the interest and need is high for this type of collaboration based on what we’ve seen from our first effort, the Pork Niche Market Working Group.”

In July 2002, the ISU project received a $100,000 planning grant from Kellogg. A portion of the funds went to the new Pork Niche Market Working Group (PNMWG), a coalition of more than 30 organizations that now employs a part-time coordinator.

The newest Kellogg grant will continue the PNMWG and create two new working groups. One group will help research and develop markets for local and regional foods, and a second will address producer ownership and equity issues in bio-based product supply chains. A portion of the grant will establish assistantships for two graduate students to combine an MBA degree in
the ISU College of Business with an emphasis in sustainable agriculture.

The grant will continue through July 2005. It does not offset cutbacks in the Leopold Center’s operating budget handed down by the 2002 Iowa Legislature.

Catherine Woteki, dean of the ISU College of Agriculture, said the grant will help Iowa farmers compete in a rapidly changing food industry. "Demand has been rising for high-quality foods raised by local farmers," Woteki said. "Networks are needed to supply those markets providing a fair return back to the farmer. It's exciting that the Kellogg Foundation recognizes and supports this new direction in agriculture."