Press Release: The Assist Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Act of 2018

Contacts: Rural Coalition, Lorette Picciano, lpicciano@ruralco.org, direct: 703-624-8869. John Zippert, jzippert@federation.coop, direct: 205-657-0273.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


The Assist Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Act of 2018 Introduced in the Senate and House


May 14, 2018, Washington, D.C. – Bills introduced today in the US Senate by Senator Chris Van Hollen and Senator Tina Smith and in US House of Representatives by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Lujan would extend and improve US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) historic Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (OASDVFR). Also known as 2501, the program, first recognized by the US Congress in 1990 addresses the unique needs of minority farmers and ranchers and since 2014, military veteran farmers and ranchers.


The nation’s American Indian, African American, Latino, Asian American and veteran farmers and ranchers have long been afforded only limited access to resources such as training, and outreach with resulting low participation in USDA farm programs, and lower-valued loans compared to other producers. “On behalf of our diverse members and the 102 organizations that have signed a letter endorsing this bill, we thank Senators Van Hollen and Smith, and Rep. Lujan Grisham and Lujan for their leadership in continuing and improving this critical program, and all the additional sponsors for their support,” said Rural Coalition Executive Director Lorette Picciano.


The Assist Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Act of 2018 (S.2839 — in the Senate and H.R.5824 in the House), assures that through OASDVFR, community based organizations and minority serving institutions will continue to provided outreach and technical assistance helping socially disadvantaged and veteran producers improve their viability using the same tools that have benefited other producers for many years. More than 100,000 rural residents in 35 states have benefited, building rural economies in persistently poor areas.


Many recently returning military veterans are also from rural areas and benefit from the resources the program provides to organizations such as the Desert Forge Foundation, which with OASDVFR support operates a training program in Atrisco, New Mexico. Elder veterans from the historic land-based community there have welcomed recently returned vets with plots of land where they produce unique products of the region for sale at local farmers’ markets and restaurants.


Rural Coalition Board Chair John Zippert who works with the Federation’s Rural Training and Research Center in Epes, AL, described the importance of the program:


“The historic OASDVFR program is the cornerstone program that helps underserved farmers and ranchers access all the other USDA programs. This small program does a lot of good – hundreds of farmers served by the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in the southeast have received the quality hands-on assistance needed to qualify and gain access to the farm credit, conservation, housing and community development programs they need to build viable operations and viable rural communities.”


The 2012 Census of Agriculture reflected a combined growth of over 28,000 Hispanic, American Indian, African American, and Asian American operators during the years of the 2008 Farm Bill when the resources ($75 million in direct funds over 4 years) provided for OASDVFR were greatest. However, in the 2014 Farm Bill, funds for the program were reduced by almost half in the 2014 Farm Bill – to only $10 million a year.


Rural Coalition, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and the North Carolina Association of Black Farmers Land Loss Prevention Project join with almost 100 other organizations in urging the Agriculture Committees and all Members of Congress to invest in the valuable services this small but effective program provides to help underserved producers grow farmers and food systems in some of the communities that can most benefit from an economic boost. The letter, released today, also supports additional new policies and programs to enhance the participation of a growing sector of new entry farmers and ranchers.


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About the Rural Coalition: The Rural Coalition, born of the civil rights, indigenous rights, and anti-poverty rural movements, has worked since 1978 to assure that diverse organizations representing land-based communities have the opportunity to work together on the issues that affect them all. The foundation of this work is strong local, regional and national organizations that work to assure the representation and involvement of every sector of this diverse fabric of rural peoples. Visit: https://www.ruralco.org/



About the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund(FSC): The Federation is a regional membership organization of 20,000 low-income families in the South,
including 10,000 African-American family farmers, who are organized in 75 cooperatives, credit unions and community-based groups. The Federation provides services, resources and advocacy for its membership. Visit: www.federation.coop



The Land Loss Prevention Project (LLPP) was founded in 1982 by the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers to curtail epidemic losses of Black owned land in North Carolina. LLPP was incorporated in the state of North Carolina in 1983. The organization broadened its mission in 1993 to provide legal support and assistance to all financially distressed and limited resource farmers and landowners in North Carolina. Visit: https://www.landloss.org/

Posted in Press Releases.