Responding to the needs of a growing population of farmers and ranchers living with a disability, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded 23 grants to organizations to help thousands of people with disabilities continue their chosen agricultural professions. USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded the grants, totaling $4.1 million, through the AgrAbility program.

"Thanks to the hard work and dedication of all Americans devoted to agriculture, U.S. agriculture is a bright spot in our economy and provides a livelihood for 1 in 12 Americans," said Dr. Catherine Woteki, USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics. "Nearly 2 million individuals working in agriculture in the United States live with a disability that affects their work and daily life. The AgrAbility program provides these producers with the training and resources they need to remain profitable, to maintain their quality of life, and to continue to contribute to our nation's supply of food, feed, fiber and fuel."

NIFA awarded the funds to land-grant universities that have joined with nonprofit disability organizations to address the specialized needs of American farmers and ranchers with disabilities. Projects include educating professionals on how to assist those with disabilities and directly training disabled agricultural workers. Past AgrAbility projects have improved customers' financial stability, access to life activities and the ability of states and regions to deliver timely services to those with disabilities.

Since initial funding in 1991, NIFA has awarded grants to more than 35 states resulting in on-farm assistance to more than 15,000 farmers while educating thousands of professionals on how to accommodate those with disabilities in agriculture. The typical award provides up to $180,000 per year for up to four years to qualifying universities.

In addition to the state project grants, one national grant provides additional support for a National AgrAbility Project, which is directed jointly by Purdue University and Goodwill Industries. These national partners joined to provide technical assistance and professional training for the state projects, produce resource materials and distribute information related to the project. For more information, visit www.agrability.org.

Fiscal Year 2011 grant recipients are:

1. University of Arkansas, Little Rock, Ark., $180,000
2. University of California, Davis, Calif., $180,000
3. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo., $180,000
4. University of Delaware, Newark, Del., $180,000
5. University of Georgia, Athens, Ga., $180,000
6. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., $180,000
7. Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan., $180,000
8. University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky., $180,000
9. University of Maine, Orono, Maine, $165,716
10. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn., $180,000
11. University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo., $180,000
12. University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb., $180,000
13. North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, N.C., $179,975
14. Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, $180,000
15. Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Okla., $180,000
16. University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tenn., $180,000
17. Texas AgriLife Extension, College Station, Texas, $178,002
18. Utah State University, Logan, Utah, $180,000
19. University of Vermont, Burlington, Vt., $180,000
20. Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va., $180,000
21. West Virginia University, Morgantown, W.V., $180,000
22. University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisc., $180,000
23. University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyo., $172,153

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. For more information, visit www.nifa.usda.gov.