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USDA commits to helping socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers

USDA commits to helping socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers

The ag department will invest $19.1 million into programming across the country

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is doing its part to help farmers from different demographic communities.

The ag department is investing $19.1 million in grants to 49 organizations in 28 states to help these groups provide training, outreach and assistance to socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers.

People in these communities have experienced limited access to USDA loans and other government resources in the past. Providing organizations with these grants can help ensure the farmers who require assistance can receive it.

“These grants provide access to USDA programs,” Mike Beatty, director of the USDA office of partnerships and public engagement, said in an Oct. 6 statement. “Whether it’s through individual technical training, or grassroots community partnership efforts, these projects empower socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers to help them and their businesses thrive.”

One of the organizations receiving USDA funding is Whitaker Small Farm Group in Garner, N.C.

The group will receive $400,000, which will be used to conduct education and apprenticeship programs, said Charles Whitaker, president and CEO.

“One thing we’re doing is training beginning farmers to become certified beekeepers, produce honey, pollinate crops and earn extra farm income,” he told Farms.com.

Another program the organization will run is its apprenticeship program.

Two century farms in Halifax County will host 36 veterans and help them gain real farming experience by participating in different aspects of running a farm business.

“The beginning farmers are shadowing and will learn how these other farmers plant, cultivate, harvest and market crops,” Whitaker said. “It’s the entire gamut of experiential training.”

Another entity receiving funding will help socially disadvantaged farmers on a national scale.

The Socially Disadvantaged Policy Research Center at Alcorn State University in Alcorn, Miss., will receive $1.5 million to continue its work.

The center, which was established in the 2014 Farm Bill, specializes in policy research that affects socially disadvantaged farmers and provides policy recommendations to improve the success of farmers within those communities.

Socially disadvantaged farmers usually name two issues as the main hurdles to operating a farm business, said Eloris Speight, executive director of the center.

“Access to credit usually comes first or second,” she told Farms.com. “So, we actually funded research to look at access to credit and the farm credit system overall.”

Another issue that comes up is heirs property, she said.

Heirs property is land that was once owned by someone who passed away without a will.

“Black farmers who are heirs property owners tend to have difficulties accessing the USDA programs they need,” she said.

A full list of organizations receiving grants can be found here.

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