Today, US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $9.7 million in grants to 62 community-based and non-profit organizations, and educational institutions to conduct training, outreach and technical assistance for socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers. These awards are distributed through the Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, also known as the "2501 Program".
"Our nation's farmers and ranchers are diverse in experience, background and knowledge, giving us the tools we need to build a resilient agricultural system," said Secretary Vilsack. "Today's announcement is part of our ongoing commitment to identify, recruit and train a vibrant next generation of farmers and ranchers who can carry American agriculture into the future. It is also part of our pledge to assist military veterans find economic opportunity as they return to civilian life."
“One of USDA Rural Development’s missions is to provide assistance that will increase the economic conditions of rural communities,” said Texas State Director Paco Valentin. “These grants will allow eligible applicants to provide technical assistance to socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers in rural areas and in turn, promote job creation and improve their operations.”
The 2501 Program primarily partners with Historically Black Land Grant Universities (1890 Land Grant Institutions), Native American Land Grant Tribal Colleges and Universities (1994 Land Grant Institutions), Hispanic-Serving Institutions of higher education, and community-based and non-profit organizations that work with minority and veteran farmers and ranchers. The program has distributed more than $66 million to 250 partners since 2010. The 2014 Farm Bill reauthorized the program and expanded assistance to include military veterans and is administered by the USDA's Office of Advocacy and Outreach.
Of today's announced grants, 31 (50 percent) will support efforts in states participating in USDA's StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative, an effort to direct USDA support and services to underserved rural areas experiencing chronic poverty. Twenty-five (39 percent) of the grants will go to partnerships directly targeting veterans interested in farming and are part of USDA's enhanced commitment to expanding services to veterans in agriculture. Twelve grants (20 percent) will directly benefit tribal and native communities.
This year's awards will be distributed in 34 states, Puerto Rico and the Federated States of Micronesia and are part of USDA's efforts to support new and beginning farmers. Three projects in Texas have been selected for funding.
- Prairie View A&M University will engage approximately 4,000 Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran farmers and ranchers by engaging them in programs aimed at increasing their profitability and sustainability.
- Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will utilize extension agents and specialists in four counties of the Lower Rio Grande Valley to work jointly in multidisciplinary areas from field crops to livestock.
- The University of Texas – Pan American will work with Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran farmers and ranchers to educate them about cost-share and loan programs.
Today's 2501 announcement was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life.