New Value-Added Agriculture Center Gets to Work

Susan Thompson, Ag Communications, Iowa State University College of Agriculture, (515) 294-0705;
From "Agriculture in Action: Notes from ISU"

June 27, 2002

The establishment of a center that focuses on value-added agriculture was announced at a news conference at Iowa State University in January. Since then, dozens of research and extension personnel at ISU, Kansas State University, the University of California and Oklahoma State University have been on a fast track.

A $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture made the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC) possible. Its mission is to provide independent producers and processors with information they can use to build successful value-added agricultural enterprises.

One of the center's priorities was the development of an electronic, web-based library. The new website at is still under construction, but already contains lots of valuable information. There are categories for specific commodities such as beef, corn, pork, sugar beets and wheat, plus ones for specialty crops, alternative livestock, food processing and more. Each category offers multiple links to resource people and organizations, case studies and related research.

State resource directories are available. There's also information on business practices relating to value-added endeavors. Yet to come are listings of value-added consultants and companies and farmer-owned businesses that visitors to the site can contact for help. ISU Extension is providing the administrative leadership for the e-center.

"We are providing producers and consultants with information we hope will be helpful and easily accessible," says Mary Holz-Clause, co-director of the center. "Through focus groups and discussions with users, our clients told us they want market information, case studies and ways to connect with other producer and cooperative groups. The website is designed with those criteria in mind."

The ISU Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) is coordinating the AgMRC research team. Several research projects have been established. One project analyzes the advantages and disadvantages of marketing through either contracts or spot markets.

Another is examining the obstacles and potential rewards when U.S. livestock producers use controlled origin denomination (COD) labeling. The economic feasibility of using COD branding on Iowa meat products is part of the study. In addition, two Iowa-based cattle marketing alliance efforts are being studied to determine why one succeeded and another did not.

A study of the economic power of producer bargaining associations is underway. And costs and benefits from increased food ingredient traceability, including country or origin labeling, are being researched. Several projects also have been established at the other three AgMRC universities.