January 27, 2012
This week, USDA’s Office of Advocacy and Outreach launched their website located at www.outreach.usda.gov.
The Office of Advocacy and Outreach (OAO) was established in the 2008 Farm Bill in order to increase access to USDA programs and to improve the viability and profitability of small farms and ranches, beginning farmers and ranchers, and socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers. The office is intended to serve as a focal point for the development of improved policies to foster increased farming opportunities and as a conduit between USDA agencies and the Secretary of Agriculture to aid in the better alignment of programs and rules and regulations with the goal of advancing farming opportunities and viability.
NSAC helped develop the original proposal for the office, and was successful in working with congressional champions to get the office included in the last farm bill.
The Office has five key program areas, the first three of which were included in the last farm bill with the other two added administratively:
OAO’s website features several important resources for small, beginning, women, minority, and limited resource farmers and farmworkers. Their financial resources page includes helpful links to USDA credit programs managed by the Farm Service Agency, for both individual farmers and groups, cooperatives, and non-profit organizations or local government. The new website also helps connect producers with their local USDA offices in order to sign up for federal programs, such as FSA loan programs or conservation programs offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
There are also links to online resources where farmers who believe they were treated unfairly by USDA while applying for federal farm programs, can appeal or file a discrimination claim with the Department of Justice.
This website is a work in progress, and we hope will serve as a valuable resource to connect farmers and ranchers with federal programs and funding opportunities offered through the Department of Agriculture. If you have any feedback on how to improve the site, we encourage you to contact the Office of Advocacy and Outreach.