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WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns recently announced $495,000 in competitive funds for institutions of higher learning to look into the economic impact of cooperatives. A U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesperson said that credit unions would be included in the research but there would not be any specific research of credit unions. “Cooperatives play an important role in the growth of our rural economy,” Johanns said. “This research will help to measure the full impact cooperatives are making in rural communities across America and provide USDA with an overview of what is working and how cooperative businesses can play central roles in vibrant rural economies.” The competitive funds will be used to establish cooperative research agreements with colleges or universities or their foundations to study the socioeconomic impact of cooperatives in cooperation with USDA Rural Development. Projects must be completed by Sept. 30, 2008. More information, including applications, can be found at: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/coops/reic.htm or by contacting USDA Rural Development at (202) 690-0368; TDD: (800) 877-8339. Paper applications must be postmarked no later than June 30, 2006 and electronic applications are due the same day via http://www.grants.gov.

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