March 18, 2016
The Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as the “Section 2501” program) is the only farm bill program dedicated to addressing the specific needs of minority and veteran farmers and ranchers.
As annual appropriations request deadlines closed earlier this week, 18 Members of Congress signed a letter supporting full funding for the program. Representatives Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) led this effort urging Congressional appropriators to support the President’s funding request of $10 million in discretionary dollars for the Section 2501 program in fiscal year 2017.
The letter requests $10 million for the Section 2501 program in order to “restore total program funding to its historical levels and it would help meet the increased demand for outreach and technical assistance by military veteran farmers and ranchers, and other historically underserved producers”.
The Members of Congress signing the letter included seven House Agriculture Committee members, seven Congressional Black Caucus members, five Congressional Hispanic Caucus members, and three Congressional Veterans Caucus members.
The 2014 Farm Bill drastically cut mandatory funding for the program from $20 million to $10 million per year. This significant cut in funding also accompanied a substantial program expansion to serve the needs of the influx of returning military veterans who seek assistance in pursing a career in farming.
This underinvestment in the Section 2501 program will ultimately shortchange our nation’s most vulnerable and chronically underserved farmers and ranchers, and will slow the pace of progress and subsequent success of these farming operations, and thus, American agriculture as a whole.
NSAC applauds the leadership of champions in Congress who are leading the charge for full funding for the 2501 program. We will be continuing to advocate for full funding throughout the agricultural appropriations process.