December 4, 2014
Farming is a risky business and has become increasingly difficult to enter over the past few decades. However, for the growing number of racially and culturally diverse or veteran farmers and ranchers in this country, starting and managing a successful farming operation is fraught with even greater challenges.
That’s why NSAC is especially excited about the nearly $10 million in federal grants that were announced today that will support outreach and technical assistance to minority, tribal, and veteran producers.
These grants were made available through the Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, also known as the “2501 Program” (after the section of the 1990 Farm Bill which initially authorized the program).
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 program provides critical resources, outreach, and technical assistance to reduce the trend among these historically under-served producers. The newly passed 2014 Farm Bill also expands the program to serve veteran farmers as well. Unfortunately, the 2014 Farm Bill simultaneously cut funding for the program in half, from $20 million a year to just $10 million. NSAC’s advocacy helped save the program from an even worse fate, and we continue to advocate for increased funding for the program.
Secretary Vilsack made today’s announcement at the 2014 White House Tribal Nations Conference – which brought together leaders from the country’s 566 federally recognized Tribes.
2014 Funded Projects
In total, $9.7 million of Fiscal Year 2014 funding will be awarded to 62 community-based and non-profit organizations, and educational institutions across 34 states.
Since 2010, the 2501 program has provided more than $66 million to 250 partners throughout the country to assist minority and tribal producers and help them access and utilize USDA resources and build successful farming operations.
This most recent round of awards is the first new funding for outreach efforts to these farmers provided since 2012. There were no awards made in 2013 due to the delay in passing a new farm bill – which left this program, along with many other programs that support sustainable agriculture, stranded without funding.
Twenty-five (39 percent) of the grants will go to partnerships directly targeting veterans interested in farming and are part of USDA’s enhanced commitment to expanding services to veterans in agriculture. Twelve (20 percent) of the funded projects will work with tribal and native communities.
In particular, NSAC congratulates the following seven NSAC member organizations who received grants for their work with socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers:
“We are one of three veteran centric organizations that received funding. With the funding, we are doing a veterans resource guide on how to use VA benefits in agriculture and how veterans fit into the USDA programs. In addition, we are going to modify our database so that we can help bring qualified veteran applicants to USDA programs and help them better understand what programs they are qualified for.” – Dr. Michelle Pfannenstiel, President, Farmer Veteran Coalition-Maine
“We are excited to have received the 2501 grant funding to assist socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers operate viable farms and ranches in Michigan! The grant will help us in our work to better link our USDA agency partners with our farmer and non-profit customers, conduct hands-on and conference workshops on USDA programs and services, and develop success stories illustrating the benefits of USDA programs.” – Michelle Napier-Dunnings, MIFFS Executive Director
While the list of grant recipients is long and the projects sound very good, grants for the Fiscal Year 2014 funding cycle were capped at a much smaller amount than years past, and therefore will have a smaller impact on providing resources to our nation’s growing minority, tribal, and veteran farming population. More funding is urgently needed to ensure that this long-standing program has sufficient available resources to effectively serve our country’s most underserved producers.