Outreach for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers


Program Basics

The Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers program, also known as the “Section 2501” program after its Farm Bill section number, provides grants to Land Grant Institutions (1862, 1890, or 1994), Native American Tribal Governments and organizations, Latino-Serving Institutions, State Controlled Institutions of Higher Education, and community-based organizations and non-profits that work with minority farmers and assist them in owning and operating farms and participating in agricultural and USDA-specific programs.

The purpose of the Section 2501 program is to assure that socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers have opportunities to successfully acquire, own, operate, and retain farms and ranches and equitably participate in all USDA programs.

The OASDFR supports a range of outreach and assistance activities, including:

  • Farm management
  • Financial management
  • Marketing
  • Application and bidding procedures

Applicants are also encouraged to coordinate with existing regional projects to complement pertinent and relevant cross-regional activities.

The Section 2501 program is administered by the USDA’s new Office of Outreach and Advocacy.

Most Recent Section 2501 Program Year Funding – FY2010

Estimated Total Program Funding

$20,000,000

Range of Grant Awards

$100,000 to $400,000 per year, up to 3 years

Percent of Applications Funded

30%*

Average Grant Amount

$254,533*

Cost Sharing Requirements

None

* Indicates information for most recent data – FY 07

2008 Farm Bill Changes

Two major legislative changes were made to the Section 2501 program in the 2008 Farm Bill.First, the program will now be administered by the new USDA Office of Outreach and Advocacy (OAO) instead of the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES), though grants awarded before 2010 will continue to be administered through CSREES.Second, funding for the program is increased substantially (see funding section below) to help reach more farmers and ranchers in underserved areas and to improve and expand existing outreach and technical assistance projects.

Other changes include a requirement for grant recipients to have demonstrated an ability to carry out enhanced coordination of outreach, technical assistance, and education efforts; they must also help reach current and prospective socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers in a linguistically appropriate manner and improve the participation rate of these farmers in USDA programs.

For appropriate oversight and analysis of the program’s impact, USDA is required to submit an annual report to both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees outlining the list of grant recipients, the activities and programs being funded to benefit socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, the number of producers being served by programs, and any problems or barriers identified by stakeholders that should be handled.

Section 14004 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act amends Section 2501 of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990, to be codified at 7 U.S.C. Section 2279.

Funding

Despite the program’s success, program funding has not been sufficient to reach counties throughout the U.S. where outreach is needed.Section 2501 was authorized in the 2002 Farm Bill at $25 million a year but has never received a congressional appropriation of more than $6 million in any year since then.

The 2008 Farm Bill authorized mandatory funding for the program and greatly increased the total to $75 million for FY 09-12.

Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged

Farmers and Ranchers Program Funding

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

$5.9m

$15m

$20m

$20m

$20m

Please note:The funding levels in the chart above show the amount of mandatory funding reserved by the 2008 Farm Bill for this program to be provided through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation.  However, Congress does at times pass subsequent appropriations legislation that caps the funding level for a particular year for a particular program at less than provided by the farm bill in order to use the resulting savings to fund a different program.  Therefore, despite its “mandatory” status, the funding level for a given year could be less than the farm bill dictates should the Appropriations Committee decide to raid the farm bill to fund other programs under its jurisdiction.

Implementation Basics

As an annual competitive grant program, a Section 2501 program request for applications (RFA) is issued each year in the Federal Register and Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance.These documents explain the program and its application instructions, in addition to the process for providing comments and public input on the RFA.

For application deadlines and links to the most current RFA, please go to: http://sustainableagriculture.net/publications/grassrootsguide/farm-bill-programs-and-grants.

Examples of Past Grant Recipients

Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (www.albafarmers.org/)
The Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) in Salinas, CA received $253,217 in FY2005 to enhance business management skills of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. ALBA has been successful in helping former migrant workers, some of which have never farmed before, become prosperous farm owners. With the help of this grant and other funding, ALBA has created several influential and thriving programs in agricultural training, business and marketing education, and leadership development which benefit a diverse group of farmers and ranchers.

Federation of Southern Cooperatives (www.federationsoutherncoop.com/)
In 2007, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives received $299,723, more than doubling its 2005 and 2006 grants, to strengthen the farm management and marketing skills of minority farmers in the southern region of the United States. The funding helped FSC to operate programs such as the Small Farm and Sustainable Agriculture Program, which helps farmers develop successful family farm businesses with technical assistance in farm management, setting farm goals, and financial analysis.

Additional Resources

For more information on the Section 2501 program, see USDA’s website for the Office of Advocacy and Outreach.