November 14, 2012
On Tuesday, November 13, more than 160 organizations from around the country delivered a letter to House and Senate Agriculture Committee members and Congressional leaders in support of robust funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) and the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program (2501). The letter also urges Congress to increase funding levels for each of the programs to $100 million over 5 years ($20 million annually) during negotiations over the final farm bill. The letter was coordinated by the Land Stewardship Project, an NSAC member organization based in Minnesota, and supported by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
For decades, 2501 has served as the only farm bill program dedicated to addressing the needs of African-American, American-Indian, Asian-American, and Latino family farmers and ranchers. The program provides critical resources, outreach, and technical assistance to these historically under-served producers.
Although BFRDP has only been around for a few years, young farming communities around the country are already seeing real impacts of the program on-the-ground. Over the past four years, BFRDP has invested over $70 million to develop and strengthen innovative new farmer training programs and resources across the country, and has funded 145 projects in 46 states.
The letter points out that, “these competitive grant programs are the only federal programs exclusively dedicated to training beginning and minority farmers and ranchers.” It goes on to say that “allowing these programs to lapse within a stalled farm bill is unacceptable and irresponsible.”
As of October 1 of this year, both 2501 and BFRDP — along with several other innovative research, food systems, and rural development programs — have now officially expired with the expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill. Congress clearly understands the value of these programs, as both the House and Senate included funding for them in their draft farm bills, albeit at decreased levels. Unfortunately, despite the success and widespread support for these programs, lawmakers’ decision to not take up the unfinished farm bill has left our country’s historically under-served and beginning farmers with fewer resources at their disposal.
NSAC and our partners across the country have been advocating for continued funding for these critical programs, and have urged Congress to take up and pass a final farm bill this year. In the absence of a farm bill reauthorization this year, Congress must provide explicit funding for these programs in any short-term extension package.
To find out what you can do to support socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers, visit our take action page!