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With $9.3 million investment, UW–Madison will establish the Wisconsin Rural Partnership

December 16, 2022

The University of Wisconsin­–Madison is creating an initiative to advance the land-grant mission of the university, support community-based projects, and create new partnerships to better meet the needs of rural communities.

The Wisconsin Rural Partnership will be possible due to a $9.3 million investment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

UW–Madison is one of three institutions to receive a total of $28 million to establish the Institute for Rural Partnerships, which — through research, outreach activities and partnership development — will address the unique challenges facing rural communities. Funding comes from the 2022 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which was led by Senator Tammy Baldwin and then included in the bipartisan fiscal year 2022 omnibus legislation.

“We are excited to be a part of this initiative and to be selected as an Institute for Rural Partnerships,” says Steve Ackerman, UW–Madison vice chancellor for research and graduate education. “This is the Wisconsin Idea in action.”

At least one partnership has already been identified to receive funding — the Wisconsin Environmental Mesonet, which is also supported by $1 million from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. The Mesonet will provide data, research and education for the agriculture community to help them boost harvests and yields, protect crops and resources and increase overall economic benefits.

“UW–Madison plans to purchase scientific equipment and develop a comprehensive statewide network of 90 environmental (weather and soil) monitoring stations across Wisconsin,” Ackerman says. “This equipment, along with the support from the USDA, will enable the development of infrastructure that can support solutions to a variety of challenges currently facing rural Wisconsin.”

Campus partners on the Mesonet include the Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, the Division of Extension and College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

“The Nelson Institute is extremely grateful for this wonderful opportunity to build upon and share its expertise with rural communities across Wisconsin through a funded, expanded Wisconsin State Climatology Office, the establishment of Wisconsin’s Mesonet and expanded outreach opportunities,” says Michael Notaro, director of the Center for Climatic Research (CCR) within the Nelson Institute. “I can say that it is an honor for CCR to serve our state to tackle the challenges and opportunities unique to our highly valued rural communities.”

Through the Institute for Rural Partnerships, says Extension Dean Karl Martin, the university will work closely with partners statewide to explore new solutions for Wisconsin’s rural communities.

“We appreciate Sen. Baldwin’s commitment to addressing issues facing rural Wisconsin,” Martin adds. “UW–Madison Extension and CALS are excited to enhance our work with communities across Wisconsin, campus researchers and rural partners to implement the Wisconsin Idea to address issues facing rural communities.”

The Institute for Rural Partnerships, housed at UW–Madison, Auburn University and the University of Vermont, aims to promote equitable, resilient, and prosperous food and agricultural systems, a fair marketplace for producers and expanded opportunities for economic development in rural communities. The Partnership will also collaborate with community-based initiatives and local research, educational institutions and subject matter experts.

“Land-grant universities were built to solve problems in partnership with the residents of their states, and our faculty, staff and students are proud to continue this tradition,” says Glenda Gillaspy, Dean of CALS. “We appreciate the opportunity to expand our work with Wisconsin’s rural communities as one of the three universities selected for this program and look forward to expanding and strengthening our partnerships as a result.”

UW–Madison’s Office of Federal Relations – located in the university’s Washington D.C. office – worked closely with campus stakeholders and Sen. Baldwin to secure support for this critical new investment.