USDA Funds Equality in Agriculture
By: Sydney Sheffield
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced awards totaling $25 million in grants and cooperative agreements. The funds will ensure broader access and participation in USDA programs and services for historically underserved farmers and ranchers. USDA is making efforts to alleviate generational systematic racism and improve access for all farmers.
“Equity is a vital consideration in all we do at USDA,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We must see to it that the programs we support and the investments we make are available to all and that we take distinct action in ensuring that historically underserved farmers and ranchers are able to participate in USDA programs and benefit from the opportunities USDA investments and programs can help create.”
These funds come after the USDA announced the creation of an Equality Commission Subcommittee on Agriculture. The Equity Commission will advise the Secretary of Agriculture by identifying recommendations for how USDA can take steps to address programs, policies, systems, structures, and practices that contribute to barriers to inclusion or access, systemic discrimination, or exacerbate or perpetuate racial, economic, health, and social disparities. The Subcommittee will report to the Equality Commission on issues specific to agriculture. USDA has called for nominations for the Commission. If interested, submit nominations here.
Three programs are responsible for the funding, aimed at broadening access to USDA resources. The first is the USDA 2501 program, which targets historically disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. USDA will distribute $18.6 million to 29 grantee organizations in 21 states to provide training, outreach, and technical assistance.
The Farm Service Agency (FSA) will also be awarded $4.7 million to fund 56 project proposals to give marginalized producers better access to FSA programs. “Through established relationships with state, tribal, and other agricultural organizations, we hope to equip farmers and ranchers with the resources needed to access and participate in FSA’s programs and services,” said Gloria Montaño Greene, Deputy Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. “These partnerships will provide important technical assistance, outreach, and education to producers to participate in FSA programs.”
The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will spend $1.73 million for nine projects that will expand and improve organic agriculture oversight through increasing the workforce for inspectors, reviewers, and other professionals in the industry. The funded projects provide support across the human capital pipeline and support the Administration’s commitment to advancing equity.