Conservation Programs: Spotlight on Racial Equity

Percent of Total CSP Acres Enrolled by Socially Disadvantaged Producers in 2018

By Ariana Taylor-Stanley, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Federal working lands conservation programs help make farms more viable, financially and environmentally. The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) offer farmers critical financial resources for conservation projects that fight climate change, mitigate pollution, enhance habitat. However, compared to other regions of the country these programs are underutilized in the Northeast, especially by farmers of color (see map).

Because of a history of discrimination at USDA, many programs have funds set aside for farmers of color.* CSP and EQIP each have 5% of their funds reserved for farmers of color (in addition to another 5% for beginning farmers, and a few other set-aside pools). However, few Northeast states enroll enough farmers of color to fully utilize these funds. In 2018, the most recent year for which program data is currently available, fewer than 1.5% of CSP acres in the Northeast region were stewarded by farmers of color. Only four states in the region had any farmers of color using the program, and no state had more than two. For EQIP, almost 4.7% of program dollars in the 12-state Northeast region went to farmers of color, although in New England, farmers of color received less than 2.7% of EQIP dollars.

Conservation program funding can provide an essential resource to help farmers of color succeed despite the barriers of systemic racism. Northeast states - and state departments of agriculture - can help to make sure conservation funding reaches farmers of color in the region using tools like culturally appropriate outreach, funding set-asides, and equity audits of existing practices.

* USDA uses the term “socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers” to refer to African American, American Indian, Alaskan Native, Asian, Hispanic, and Pacific Islander farmers - here, the term “farmer of color” refers to the same groups.

Learn more about Conservation Stewardship Program

Learn more about Environmental Quality Incentives Program


Read more in How State and Federal Programs Support Farmers, Fishermen, Food Entrepreneurs and Consumers in the Northeast