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USDA allocates $550 million for projects for underserved producers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is allocating up to $550 million to support projects that enable underserved producers to access land, capital, and markets, and train the next, diverse generation of agricultural professionals.

These investments are made through funding provided in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Section 1006, as amended by Section 22007 of the Inflation Reduction Act. These provisions fund and direct USDA to take action to help ensure underserved producers have the resources, tools, programs, and technical support they need to succeed.

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“These funding opportunities are historic and part of USDA’s unwavering commitment to advancing equity for all, including people who have been underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality. When we address longstanding inequities, our entire country benefits,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release. “Land access, heirs’ property, affordable credit and access to reliable markets – along with consistent access to help from well-trained experts – are essential to strengthening our communities.

“USDA is equally committed to partnering with minority-serving institutions to establish exciting and fulfilling pathways for Next Generation leaders to have careers in agriculture, nutrition, food, development, and in the federal government,” he said.

To date, USDA has implemented provisions within Section 1006 of the American Rescue Plan Act, including standing up an independent Equity Commission. USDA also has provided $75 million for partnership agreements with 20 organizations that will deliver technical assistance and support for underserved producers, including veterans, limited resources producers, beginning farmers and ranchers, and/or producers living in high poverty areas on topics ranging from business development to heirs’ property. USDA also received applications for at least another $25 million in partnership agreements for technical assistance and will announce awardees by fall.

USDA is taking additional steps to implement Section 1006 of the ARPA, as amended by Section 22007 of the Inflation Reduction Act. Specifically, the department is announcing:

Up to $300 million for “Increasing Land, Capital and Market Access” Projects – This Notice of Funding Opportunity is seeking partner organizations for projects that increase access to land, capital, and markets. Projects should be innovative and help move underserved producers from surviving to thriving. Projects must focus on strengthening land access with at least one of the following related areas of concern: capital access concerns that affect the ability to access land; market access concerns that affect the ability to access land; or a combination of one or more of land, capital, and market access concerns.

The deadline for applications is October 28. The notice of funding opportunity will be available at grants.gov in the coming days.

$250 million, for “From Learning to Leading: Cultivating the Next Generation of Diverse Food and Agriculture Professionals” program – USDA is committed to not only hiring, developing, and advancing a workforce that truly reflects America’s rich and diverse characteristics, but also to creating a workplace environment that is inclusive so that everyone can rise to their highest potential and flourish in supporting our mission. The need for growing the next generation of professionals is timely and important. This competitive funding opportunity is aimed at attracting, inspiring, and retaining diverse and talented students at eligible minority-serving institutions for careers in food, agriculture and related disciplines, with an emphasis on federal government sector employment. Eligible applicants are 1890 land-grant institutions, 1994 land-grant institutions, Alaska Native-serving institutions, Native Hawaiian-serving institutions, certified Hispanic-serving institutions and Insular Area institutions of higher education located in the U.S. territories. The deadline for applications is October 25. See the request for applications for full details.

In February, USDA released its Equity Action Plan, a framework for reckoning with USDA’s history of challenges with underserved communities, including Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian American and other farmers of color. USDA is committed to ensuring equity across all of its activities, which includes improving access to programs and services for all stakeholders and communities, especially underserved producers. Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of announcements building momentum around USDA’s historic commitment to root out generations of systemic racism; center equity in decision-making and policymaking; have a diverse, modern and inclusive workforce; lower barriers to access; and ensure USDA programming is inclusive of all employees and all customers. Learn more at www.usda.gov/equity.

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