FEDERAL POLICY, REGIONAL IMPACT
USDA’s 2501 Program
Nobody chooses agriculture as a career path because they think it’s easy. Most farmers, whether they’re just starting out or they’ve been at it for years, face numerous challenges, including access to land, capital, and markets, fluctuating prices, reliable labor pools, and many others. For farmers of color, these challenges can be even more daunting. Though the Farm Bill authorizes many programs to assist farmers and ranchers, minority producers have been historically underrepresented as participants of these programs.
Though you many not have figured this out by its common name, the 2501 program, established in the 1990 Farm Bill, is meant to help redress this lack of equity in Farm Bill programs. This program (officially know as the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers program) funds community based organizations, higher education institutions, and tribes to assist socially disadvantaged agricultural producers in owning and operating farms, ranches, and nonindustrial forest lands. Producers are considered socially disadvantaged if they have been subjected to ethnic, racial, or, in some cases, gender discrimination. In the most recent Farm Bill, the definition of “socially disadvantaged” for the 2501 program was expanded to include returning military veterans entering agriculture.
In the northeast region, there are fewer minority farmers proportionately than elsewhere in the United States. Though there are many reasons for this, one significant factor is historical discrimination against minority farmers, including among federal agencies. The 2501 program and other, similar kinds of support is needed to close this gap. The program's recognition of gender discrimination also benefits the northeast. Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Connecticut have some of the highest percentages of female farmers in the nation – women make up over a third of the farming populations of those states.
In NESAWG’s 12 state region, there have been at least 12 projects funded by the 2501 in the past 3 years for which data is available. Examples include the following:
A Farm School Mentoring Program at Delaware State University, a historically black, 1890s Land Grant university, providing educational and technical assistance to socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers.
A program at Sterling College in Vermont to improve military veterans’ access to USDA programs, business training, and low impact forestry skills
A research and training project at Rural Coalition to improve the prosperity of socially disadvantaged farmers in the mid-Atlantic region by examining the root causes of USDA’s failure to connect with these producers and developing collaborative strategies to re-engage them with USDA programs
- Funding for the New Roots Program at the International Rescue Committee in New York, which provides training, technical assistance and small business counseling to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers with limited English capacity
A new funding cycle for the 2501 program has not yet been announced, but you can see a list of recipients for the 2014 funding cycle and learn more about the program, including future funding announcements. We will also send out funding announcements for this and other Farm Bill programs through our lists, so join them today! In the meantime, we want to hear your experiences and stories about the 2501 program.
Have you applied for the program in the past? Was it funded? Please share your stories with NESAWG Advocacy staff member Amy Little at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the 2501 program, read NSAC’s Grassroots Guide to the Farm Bill.