Earlier this month, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced over $27 million in grants to 41 organizations across the country for outreach and technical assistance to underserved and veteran farmers and ranchers.
The Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, more commonly known as the “2501 Program,” and administered by USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE), helps to ensure that historically underserved producers have equitable access to the information, programs, and opportunities that will help them to find success in agriculture.
Spotlight on FY 2023 Grantees
NSAC congratulates all of this year’s 2501 grant recipients and acknowledges the hard-working and dedicated community-based organizations that provide essential support directly to socially disadvantaged farmers every day, including the following NSAC member organizations:
California Farmlink will use their $750,000 grant to serve primarily Latino farmers and other socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in California with training and technical assistance needed to protect farm income and prepare farm and ranch businesses. This technical assistance will provide support to farmers in accessing land, capital and USDA programs. The project will serve low-income, rural communities in over 30 California counties, primarily in the state’s Central Coast and Central Valley region.
Michigan Integrated Food & Farming Systems (MIFFS) will use their $749,621 grant to assist socially disadvantaged farmers and farmer veterans in owning and successfully operating viable farms and ranches in Michigan. MIFFS will support peer-to-peer networks in Michigan for beginning and historically underserved farmers and utilize their USDA technical assistance specialists to work one-on-one with socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and veterans to assist in navigating and applying for USDA programs, planning, and marketing. They will also facilitate an annual statewide conference with more than 25 workshops and host at least 2 annual USDA technical assistance clinics onsite in underserved communities to build relationships with local USDA staff and identify challenges and opportunities in order to respond to the needs of SDF/R and farmers and veterans in real time.
Cultivate Kansas City will use their $666,534 grant to expand and refine their New Roots Farm Training and Business Incubation program to increase the viability and sustainability of current program participants and provide greater support to program graduates. These refinement strategies include expanding outreach to other non-English speaking populations, securing land for program graduates, and providing education and demonstrations of effective product diversification.
Foodshed Capital will use their $749,335 grant to provide a broader and more individualized array of comprehensive, customized support (CCS) to Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC) regenerative farmers focused on financial literacy, bookkeeping and accounting, lending readiness, and long-term business viability. All programming will emphasize meeting underserved farmers where they are to remove barriers, increase the accessibility of programs and services, and help them build more successful businesses. Foodshed Capital will serve small-scale, beginning and established underserved farmers identifying as BIPOC, who utilize regenerative, climate-smart practices in the Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, New York, Georgia, Vermont, and Washington DC regions.
A full list of 2501 grantees can be found here.
For farmers of color, starting and managing a successful farming operation can present unique and difficult challenges. Farmers of color have not historically benefitted from vital USDA safety net programs to the same extent as their white counterparts, often due to overt discrimination, limited resources, and USDA’s inadequate outreach to these communities. This disparity disadvantages farmers of color in both the national and global economy and stifles the growth and prosperity of rural communities. As a result, farmers of color often face enormous challenges when looking to start or maintain viable and resilient careers in farming. Rising costs and limited availability of farmland, access to markets and infrastructure, discrimination, and worsening impacts of the climate crisis and natural disasters are just some of the challenges these farmers encounter. USDA created the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program in an effort to increase support for the operations of farmers of color, women, and military veterans (known collectively as “socially disadvantaged farmers” in statute).
The 2018 Farm Bill combined the 2501 program with the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) into a new umbrella program: the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) program. Congress mandates that FOTO funds be divided equally between Section 2501 and BFRDP, with each program to receive $25 million in mandatory funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023. FOTO received an additional $75 million from the Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020 in December 2020, and these additional funds were meant to be dispersed over the next few years. In FY22, 52 organizations were awarded 2501 grants, almost double the amount of awards granted in FY21 as a result of the additional investment from COVID relief funds. However, President Joe Biden and former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA-20) deal intended to avoid a catastrophic default on the United States’ debt, now known as the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, H.R. 3746, rescinded all unobligated funds from the $75 million appropriated to FOTO, resulting in less funding and fewer grantees for FY23 than originally expected.