FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Reana Kovalcik
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Bicameral Bill Prioritizes Support for Nation’s Underserved Farmers
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition praises bill introduction
Washington, DC, May 15, 2018 – For the last 30 years, the farm bill’s Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as “Section 2501”) has stood out as the only U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program specifically dedicated to addressing the needs of “socially disadvantaged” farmers. Today, Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Tom Udall (D-NM), and Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) introduced the “Assist Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Act of 2018,” which will help to ensure that farmers of color and veteran farmers are equitably served by USDA programs and that they have equal opportunities for success in agriculture.
“The Outreach to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program has for decades served as the only farm bill program dedicated to addressing the specific needs of minority and veteran farmers, and we are grateful to the sponsors of this bill for championing legislation to protect this important this program,” said Juli Obudzinski, Deputy Policy Director at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC).
Historically, military veterans and farmers of color have not participated in or benefited from USDA programs to the same extent as other farmers. The Section 2501 program was created in the 1990 Farm Bill to address and rectify these disparities. Subsequently, in the 2014 Farm Bill, military veterans were added to the list of “underserved farmers” that the program is charged with serving. Section 2501 provides grants to organizations that work with underserved farmer populations, helping these producers to purchase and operate their own farms and effectively participate in USDA programs. According to USDA, the program has supported assistance to over 100,000 farmers to date.
“American agriculture is diversifying more each day, but military veterans and farmers of color continue to face unique hurdles in accessing key tools and resources,” said Obudzinski. “Section 2501 has stood out among USDA programs for the central role it plays in creating a more level playing field and arming these farmers with the tools they need to succeed in agriculture. The simultaneous implementation of funding cuts and program expansion in the last farm bill severely limited the program’s ability to serve our nation’s most vulnerable and often overlooked farmers and ranchers. Given the increased demand on program resources, it is essential that Congress scale up, not cut back, support for Section 2501.”
Hmong American Partnership (HAP), an NSAC member organization based in St Paul, MN, has leveraged support from the 2501 program to conduct hands-on support and training with new American farmers, including Hmong, Somali, and Latino aspiring growers.
One farmer currently working with HAP said, “I am an immigrant Hmong woman farmer and this year HAP has introduced me to new education opportunities for my future farming practices and business. My goal is to eventually grow and sell flowers at local markets, and HAP has provided business development education along with financial literacy training to help me become more successful in my future endeavors.”
The Assist Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Act would support the vital mission and work of the Section 2501 Program by:
- Reauthorizing and providing renewed mandatory funding for the program, which would otherwise expire on September 30, 2018.
- Increasing transparency and accountability to ensure the program remains responsive and accessible to those serving our nation’s most vulnerable farming communities.
- Requiring the Secretary of Agriculture to compile and publicly report data annually for each county and state in the United States on the participation by race, gender, ethnicity and veteran status in all USDA programs serving farmers or ranchers.
NSAC thanks Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Tom Udall (D-NM), and Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) for their work on this important legislation, and for recognizing the ongoing need to enhance equity and access throughout our food and farm systems. We look forward to continue to working with all our allies in Congress and across the country to ensure that all farmers have a voice in and are served by the 2018 Farm Bill. To learn more about the Section 2501 program and the Assist Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Act of 2018, visit NSAC’s website.
About the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more and get involved at: http://sustainableagriculture.net
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