February 11, 2015
On February 11, USDA released the Request for Applications (RFA) for the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, more commonly known as the 2501 program. Simultaneously it also released an RFA for the Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center.
The 2501 RFA
USDA has announced the availability of $9.1 million grant funding for the 2501 program to provide outreach and assistant socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers. The funding comes from the $10 million a year provided by the 2014 Farm Bill. No matching funds are required to compete for funding.
This program, more commonly known as 2501, provides grants to colleges and universities and community based organizations to provide outreach and assistance to socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers to overcome the unique challenges they face in owning and operating successful farms and ranches.
For decades, the 2501 Program 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 challenges faced by these producers include language barriers, historic cultural and racial biases at USDA, and the unique physical and mental challenges faced by returning veterans.
The 2501 RFA has four priority areas, and all project proposals must address at least two of them:
Applications will be due by April 13, and awards will be made before the end of Fiscal Year 2015 that ends in September.
The USDA Office of Advocacy and Outreach, which administers the program, has decided to allocate only 44 percent of the funding available to projects organized by community based organizations, with the balance reserved for colleges and universities. While the RFA proposes to divide funding between recipient type, it does not suggest any specified division between minority and veteran farmer projects.
Unlike the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, run by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the OAO does not give funding priority to partnership and collaborative projects that are led by or include community based organizations, though it does welcome partnership proposals.
Consult the programs Frequently Asked Question page for more information.
Background in Brief
The 2501 Program was originally authorized as Section 2501 of the 1990 Farm Bill. Under the terms of the 2008 Farm Bill it reached a level of $20 million a year in mandatory funding. Unfortunately, the 2014 cut that funding level in half, to just $10 million a year, even while adding the new veteran priority and thereby increasing the size of the constituency served by the program. NSAC was instrumental in getting the funding level up from zero to $10 million, but continues to advocate for a return to the previous $20 million level.
The 50 percent cut in funding accompanies a significant program expansion to serve the needs of returning military veterans who wish to pursue a career in farming. This underinvestment in the 2501 Program will ultimately shortchange our nation’s most vulnerable and chronically underserved farmers, and will slow the pace of progress and subsequent success of these farming operations, and thus, American agriculture as a whole.
Visit NSAC webpage dedicated to the 2501 program, which contains more detailed information on the program.
Socially disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center
USDA also announced that funds are available for a Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center. There will be $400,000 available for one Center with the opportunity for the Center to receive that same amount each year through 2018, which is when the current farm bill expires.
According to USDA:
The Center will specialize in policy research impacting socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. Land loss, land retention, and access to local, state, and federal programs will be major areas of research and policy development. The Center’s director and staff will have epxerience and/or education required to understand the socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers communities. The Center will propose how they will work with other institutions, as appropriate, inside and outside the land grant community.
The 2014 Farm Bill authorized the creation of a Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center. “1890” Institutions and Tuskegee University are the only entities that can apply for this funding, the deadline for applications will be April 13. 1890 land-grant institutions are historically African American universities that were authorized under the Second Morrill Act of 1890.