USA, Washington DC. To support rural agriculture and provide more equitable service, the USDA announced that it is accepting grant applications to specifically benefit historically underserved farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.
Last week, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the revision of its farm loan process. As part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the Technical Assistance Investment Program is aimed at historically underserved farmers, ranchers and forest landowners by providing technical support in accessing USDA programs and services.
"As part of USDA's American Rescue Plan investments, we want to ensure that those who have been traditionally underserved by USDA have the same understanding and technical support needed to access USDA programs and services. This is one of many steps USDA is taking as we continue to break down barriers and be more inclusive of all USDA customers," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will provide, at a minimum, a US$25 million investment of American Rescue Plan funds, with awards normally ranging from US$500,000 to US$3.5 million for a five-year cooperative agreement. There is no anticipated overall maximum funding level.
Special focus on underserved communities
Applications are encouraged from partnerships and collaborations that are led by domestic nonprofit organizations and accredited public and nonprofit institutions of higher education with specialized expertise and a proven track record in working with underserved agricultural producers and/or the specific content for technical assistance.
The USDA acknowledged that in the past, underserved communities of agricultural producers had not received the level of technical support that would benefit the launch, growth, resilience and success of their agricultural enterprises. Without meaningful technical assistance, producers are more likely to operate smaller, lower-revenue farms, have weaker credit histories and may lack clear title to their agricultural land, which increases the difficulty in securing loans to own or operate their businesses and to ensure the success and resiliency of their operations.
In addition, the USDA declared it would reduce programs directed to supporting specialty crop production, which is a popular crop production choice for many producers and existing programs that may not always be well-matched to the needs of small, diversified farms and ranches.