November 11, 2022
Last month, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced over $36 million in 2501 grants to 52 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.
NSAC congratulates all of this year’s 2501 grant recipients. We are also excited to acknowledge 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:
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 the 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 $15 million in mandatory funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. Congress provided the 2501 program with an additional $2.5 million in discretionary funding in FY 2020, bringing total grant funding to $17.5 million. However, NSAC was disappointed when, in the FY 2020 cycle USDA redirected funds Congress provided to support a separate, administratively created initiative. Only $12.8 million was invested in 2501 grants in 2020. FOTO received an additional $75 million from the Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020 in December 2020, and these additional 2501 funds will be dispersed over the next few years.
2501 in the 2023 Farm Bill
There is much more work to be done to better serve beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and the 2023 Farm Bill provides an opportunity to streamline the services provided by FOTO; increase outreach and education to beginning and BIPOC farmers; improve targeted support as these farmers navigate the often complex programs that USDA provides; and boost financial assistance to bolster successful careers in agriculture. There have been many challenges with the administration of the 2501 program over time, including funding cuts and significant delays in the publication of the funding announcement. In some instances, applicants have only had 30 days to prepare and submit complex and time-consuming grant applications.
The next farm bill should provide stronger oversight of program administration, improve accountability and transparency, and increase outreach and targeted support for underserved producers. Specifically, the 2023 farm bill should: