PORTAGEVILLE -- The University of Missouri Delta Center is the recipient of a federal grant, and among its list of things to do with the money is to provide a quicker turnaround time for farmers.
Recently, U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan announced the center, along with the Missouri Corn Growers Association, was the recipient of a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture for rural business development.
"While the economy in the larger, urban areas is showing signs of improvement, rural economies in Missouri and across the country are still feeling the impact of the economic downturn," Carnahan said in a recent statement. "These grants are just two examples of how the federal government is working to strengthen the economic condition of rural America."
A federal grant of $99,999 was awarded to the University of Missouri Delta Center to renovate an existing building for the use as a soil-testing laboratory.
"This grant allows us to improve and expand the capability of our soil-testing lab," said David Dunn, Missouri Delta Center supervisor of soil-testing lab. "It will allow us to serve farmers better."
Before the grant, tests were sent to Columbia for more accurate results, however they would take a couple of days to get back. With the grant-funded improvements, the lab soon can receive something to be tested one day and have the results the very next day, he said.
Plant tissue testing is also on the agenda of goals for the soil-testing lab, Dunn said. "We can take cotton or crop leaves and analyze the nitrogen, potassium or phosphorus in them to determine what needs to be done," he added. "It's quicker and easier, too."
Dunn said he expects farmers, fertilizer dealers and crop consultants to benefit from the results of the grant due to faster service and the expansion of ideas, the working environment and equipment.
"This grant is mainly about high-input crops, such as rice and cotton," Dunn said. "They're a higher level of management in plant testing."
Aside from the help of Carnahan, Dunn said U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, U.S. Sen. Kit Bond and Greg Branum, state director of USDA Rural Development, were also instrumental in the center receiving the grant.
Dunn said construction for the renovation of the Missouri Delta Center's existing building will begin next week and should be finished by the end of the summer.
The Missouri Corn Growers Association, headquartered in Jefferson City, was awarded a federal grant in the amount of $99,500 to help develop an identity-preserved tracking system for Missouri corn farmers. This project is expected to create six new jobs in the area.
Jamey Cline, director of value enhancement for MCGA, said it's always a surprise to receive a federal grant from the USDA. "We appreciate the state's delegation in getting this grant," he said. "We look forward to developing a new system for tracking corn to educate producers and to help develop their management skills as we approach this project." Cline said the grant will aid the entire state, including areas in Southeast Missouri. However, it's too early to specify which cities jobs will be created from the project, he said.
Both grants are part of the Rural Business-Cooperative Service program, which provides grants to public bodies, nonprofit corporations and Indian Tribes, to finance and develop small and emerging private business enterprises located in rural areas.
The funds can be used for technical assistance; feasibility studies; business plans and training; purchasing machinery and equipment; or constructing a building to be used by small and emerging businesses.