WASHINGTON, September 28, 2015 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced $8.4 million to support the work of 54 partner organizations in 35 states to provide training, outreach and technical assistance for socially disadvantaged, tribal and veteran farmers and ranchers. An additional $400,000 will help establish the Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center at Alcorn State University in Lorman, Miss.
"Today's announcement is part of our ongoing commitment to support an agricultural landscape where there is room and opportunity for all," said Vilsack. "Agriculture is just like any other business-it needs people from diverse backgrounds and experience levels in order to reach its full potential and meet the challenges of tomorrow. Identifying, recruiting and training a vibrant next generation of American farmers and ranchers has never been more exciting or more urgent than it is right now."
Among today's recipients, 31 partner organizations serve persistent poverty counties that are part of USDA's StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative. Twenty-five of the partnerships include resources for veterans interested in farming and 12 focus on tribal communities.
Examples include a $200,000 grant in Minnesota and western Wisconsin to support the Latino Economic Development Center in assisting low-income, beginning Latino and Hmong farmers by providing direct training and assistance to increase land ownership, profitability and sustainability. In South Carolina a $147,722 grant will support Project Outreach, Education and Training (POET) coordination in areas identified as having the highest concentrations of socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers in USDA StrikeForce counties.
These grants are administered through USDA's Office of Advocacy and Outreach (OAO) 2501 Program. Since 2010, more than $74 million has been invested through the 2501 Program to leverage the work of 304 local partners. The 2014 Farm Bill reauthorized the program and expanded assistance to include military veterans.
Creation of a center for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research at an 1890 Land-Grant Institution was authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill. The Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center at Alcorn State University will provide a national hub for analysis and development of policy recommendations to improve engagement and promote the interests of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
OAO works across USDA agencies to improve the viability and profitability of small and beginning farmers and ranchers; improve access to USDA programs for historically underserved communities; increase agricultural opportunities for farm workers; and close the professional achievement gap by providing opportunities for diverse, talented young people to support the agricultural industry in the 21st century.