NSAC's Blog

FSA Cooperative Agreements Connect Farmers to USDA Programs

January 25, 2017


A MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks department biologist and a local rancher discuss water management in the Big Hole Valley, MT. Photo credit: USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is dedicated to helping farmers start, grow, and improve their businesses. Farmers are busy people, however, and cannot always easily access information and programs from USDA. This has been especially challenging for farmers of color, military veteran farmers, women farmers, and farmers who utilize less conventional practices and system, as resources for these groups have been historically insufficient. As a result, many eligible farmers have not utilized beneficial USDA programs due to insufficient or inadequate outreach and technical assistance.

On January 12, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced nearly $2.5 million in awards for 46 cooperative agreements with nonprofit organizations, universities, and foundations to help address this challenge. The 2017 announcement follows the first round of FSA cooperative agreements, in which 12 members of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) received awards. Both rounds of agreements cover a range of outreach efforts with a focus on education for producers historically underserved by USDA programs. The 2016 awards range from $25,000 to $99,999 and encompass 24 states, as listed on the FSA site.

NSAC applauds FSA’s continued commitment to equitable farmer engagement through this second installment of cooperative agreements. We are proud to announce that four NSAC member organizations have received cooperative agreement awards in this cycle. Member projects are detailed below:

  • Michigan Food and Farming Systems (MIFFS): MIFFS will work with their field specialists to engage with socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers as they apply for FSA programs. Trained specialists will serve as liaisons for USDA agencies as they focus on service centers not familiar with delivering USDA programs to small scale, diversified, and urban producers. MIFFS is utilizing guides and resources created under the 2501 program to aid in assisting these producers.
  • Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF): OFRF will use this FSA grant to develop educational resources and conduct outreach on FSA benefits and opportunities for organic farmers and ranchers. OFRF plans to engage farmers through public meetings, conferences, mailings, news releases, interactions with individual producers, and web-based materials. In addition, OFRF aims to produce and distribute FSA guidebooks for organic growers relating the practical implications for farmers nationwide. The education and outreach will focus primarily on financial assistance to establish conservation buffer zones, financial assistance for crop losses due to natural disasters, interim financing after harvest, and loans for storage facilities.
  • Renewing the Countryside: Renewing the Countryside will build relationships between local FSA offices and women producers and farmland owners across Minnesota. They will help women identify which programs are right for them and assist with the process of meeting eligibility requirements, signing up, and applying for programs.

In addition to the projects above, NSAC member Hmong National Development (HND) also received a cooperative agreement award (details on this project not yet available). For additional information on FSA Cooperative Agreements, see the FSA website. Any additional questions may be sent to fsaoutreach@wdc.usda.gov.

Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers, Grants and Programs, Organic

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