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Daily News Blog

19
Jan

Take Action: Tell the Biden USDA and Congress to Protect COVID relief for Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and Military Veteran Farmers!

(Beyond Pesticides, January 19, 2021) Inadequate funding proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as the “Section 2501” program) fails to address historic discrimination and inadequate assistance for farmers of color and military veteran farmers. Funding for the Section 2501 program, which for three decades, has been the only farm bill program specifically addressing needs of these underserved populations in agriculture is smaller this year, placing undue stress on already stretched-thin community organizations working to respond to farmers during this unprecedented period of prolonged economic hardship.

Tell the Biden USDA to ensure that the full Section 2501 funding reaches farmers of color and military veteran farmers.

Since 1990, the goal of the Section 2501 program has been to increase historically underserved farmers’ awareness of and access to USDA resources—addressing the historic inequities that farmers of color, or socially disadvantaged farmers, faced in accessing USDA programs, including Farm Service Agency (FSA) loans. Congress added military veterans to the program in 2014 as an additional underserved audience. Section 2501 grants provide funding to community-based organizations and minority-serving academic institutions to conduct critical outreach and technical assistance to communities of color and veterans. 

Unfortunately, USDA has redirected $2 million of this funding, along with $2 million redirected from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation technical assistance funds to a separate, administratively created initiative. USDA’s a new Centers for Community Prosperity initiative seeks to address economic development in persistent poverty communities, with a focus on faith-based initiatives. This new program is less focused on socially disadvantaged farmers and much more prescriptive in project design than the Section 2501 program. In total, USDA diverted $4.2 million into this new initiative. 

Congress recently provided an additional $40 million for the Section 2501 grant program in its latest COVID relief bill passed in December 2020. Please urge USDA to ensure this funding goes directly to Section 2501 grantees and reaches socially disadvantaged farmers, and not be used for any other initiative—such as the Centers for Community Prosperity.

Tell the Biden USDA to ensure that the full Section 2501 funding reaches farmers of color and military veteran farmers.

Letter to Congress

As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, farmers across the country are struggling to keep their farms afloat and plan for the uncertainty that the coming year holds. While farmers have suffered from several years of depressed prices, uncertainty in trade markets, and the increasingly severe impacts of climate change, the already tenuous livelihoods of our nation’s most chronically underserved farmers—particularly Black, Indigenous, and people of color farmers–were made worse this year as a result of the pandemic. I am increasingly concerned about the sustainability of our nation’s most underserved farmers who often not only have the fewest resources to draw on but also are most in need of emergency relief and long-term support in these challenging times—as well as the nation’s food security that depends on them.

As you know, Congress recently passed its fourth round of emergency relief to help farmers, small businesses, health care professionals, households and communities across the country combat the worsening impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. As directed in the farm bill, the $80 million in additional  USDA funding is to be divided equally between USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and the Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, also known as the Section 2501 Program.

I urge you to make sure that USDA moves expeditiously to grant these additional Section 2501 funds to eligible entities with the skills and experience to reach socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers, including those most impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It is my expectation, as is shared by Congress, that the additional $40 million in funding to be directed to the Section 2501 grant program will support projects as authorized under the farm bill and will not be diverted to any other administrative initiative or purpose, such as the Centers for Community Prosperity.

In the fact of the future uncertainty of the ultimate impacts of the pandemic on our food system and communities of color, please pressure USDA to distribute the additional Section 2501 grants in a way that ensures organizations have resources over the coming years to respond to their community’s needs. USDA should also use the additional funding to increase the total grant award amount to its statutory level of $250,000 per year. Finally, I share the expectation of Congress that USDA will ensure that any project funded with these additional funds complies with the statutory requirements laid out in the farm bill—that it:

  • Has demonstrated experience in providing agricultural education or other agriculturally related services to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and veteran farmers and ranchers;
  • Provides documentary evidence of work with, and on behalf of, socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers and veteran farmers and ranchers during the 3-year period preceding the submission of their 2501 application;
  • Will use any 2501 funding to provide outreach and technical assistance exclusively to socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers in order to improve their participation in USDA agricultural program; and
  • Will represent a regional balance of projects that are geographically diverse and serve farmers in all states and regions

Thank you for supporting this critical program—especially during a time of such critical need for Black, Indigenous and people of color communities across the country.

Letter to Biden Transition Team on Agriculture

As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, farmers across the country are struggling to keep their farms afloat and plan for the uncertainty that the coming year holds. While farmers have suffered from several years of depressed prices, uncertainty in trade markets, and the increasingly severe impacts of climate change, the already tenuous livelihoods of our nation’s most chronically underserved farmers—particularly Black, Indigenous, and people of color farmers—were made worse this year as a result of the pandemic. I am increasingly concerned about the sustainability of our nation’s most underserved farmers who often not only have the fewest resources to draw on but also are most in need of emergency relief and long-term support in these challenging times—as well as the nation’s food security that depends on them.

Congress recently passed its fourth round of emergency relief to help farmers, small businesses, health care professionals, households and communities across the country combat the worsening impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. As directed in the farm bill, the $80 million in additional  USDA funding is to be divided equally between USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and the Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, also known as the Section 2501 Program.

I urge the Department to move expeditiously to grant these additional Section 2501 funds to eligible entities with the skills and experience to reach socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers, including those most impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It is my expectation, as is shared by Congress, that the additional $40 million in funding to be directed to the Section 2501 grant program will support projects as authorized under the farm bill and will not be diverted to any other administrative initiative or purpose, such as the Centers for Community Prosperity.

In the face of the future uncertainty of the ultimate impacts of the pandemic on our food system and communities of color, I ask USDA to distribute the additional Section 2501 grants in a way that ensures organizations have resources over the coming years to respond to their community’s needs. USDA should also use the additional funding to increase the total grant award amount to its statutory level of $250,000 per year. Finally, I share the expectation of Congress that USDA will ensure that any project funded with these additional funds complies with the statutory requirements laid out in the farm bill—that it:

  • Has demonstrated experience in providing agricultural education or other agriculturally related services to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and veteran farmers and ranchers;
  • Provides documentary evidence of work with, and on behalf of, socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers and veteran farmers and ranchers during the 3-year period preceding the submission of their 2501 application;
  • Will use any 2501 funding to provide outreach and technical assistance exclusively to socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers in order to improve their participation in USDA agricultural program; and
  • Will represent a regional balance of projects that are geographically diverse and serve farmers in all states and regions

Thank you for considering these recommendations and for supporting this critical program—especially during a time of such critical need for Black, Indigenous and people of color communities across the country.

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  • Archives

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    • Announcements (586)
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