Sen. Tina Smith Helps Introduce Bill to Make Sure Veteran, Minority, and Immigrant Farmers Have Access to USDA Services

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith helped introduce legislation to make sure producers from diverse backgrounds—including veteran and immigrant farmers—are able to access services through a vital Department of Agriculture (USDA) program.

The Assist Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Act of 2018 would ensure the USDA’s Outreach to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program continues through the end of the current Farm Bill, and would strengthen the program by making it a more efficient resource for veteran, minority population, and immigrant farmers and ranchers. You can learn more about the bill and access a list of supporting organizations here.   

“We need to fight for all farmers—and that includes making sure we’re advocating for Minnesotans and Americans who may face unique barriers to successfully owning and operating farms,” said Sen. Smith. “As a member of the Senate Ag Committee, I’m proud to support this bill because supporting a diverse and growing farming industry is good for families and good for our economy.”

“Socially disadvantaged farmers are the same family farmers who grow the carrots that your kids eat at school or the new potatoes you put in your grandma’s famous potato salad,” said Pakou Hang, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Hmong American Farmers Association. “They grow the food that feeds your families, and they deserve a fair chance to provide for their own families with their hard work.”

“Growing education programs and support mechanisms for those who desire to start a career in agriculture is in line with the mission of the Agriculture Centers of Excellence in Minnesota,” said Keith Olander, Director of AgCentric and Dean of Agriculture Studies at Central Lakes College. “This legislation will be a catalyst in supporting beginning farmers with unique backgrounds and traditionally under-served populations.”

“The introduction of this bill, which reauthorizes and strengthens the critical Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (“Section 2501″), is welcome news for farmers and ranchers across the country,” said Juli Obudzinski, Deputy Policy Director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). “The Section 2501 program, which runs out of farm bill funding this fall, is one of USDA’s primary tools for helping farmers and ranchers start and expand successful farm businesses and grow jobs in rural America. In Minnesota, for example, farmer advocacy organizations like Hmong American Partnership—an FY2017 program grantee and NSAC member—are translating Section 2501 program support into programs that provide historically underserved farmers with microenterprise loans to start or expand their businesses, as well as training and technical services that help farmers to develop business plans and better access USDA credit and loan programs. We thank Senator Smith, as well as Senator Van Hollen, Representative Lujan Grisham, and all the bill’s cosponsors for addressing the unique needs of farmers of color and veteran farmers by continuing Congress’ support for the Section 2501 Program.”

“For nearly 3 decades, the Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers (OASDVFR) Program has been USDA’s primary tool to assure our nation’s historically underserved producers secure real access to USDA program that help farmers and ranchers care for their land and water, and build viable and sustainable farming operations. The Rural Coalition and our members have supported the program since its inception and we are deeply grateful to Senator Smith and Senator Van Hollen, and Rep. Lujan Grisham for taking leadership to extend and improve this critical program,” said Lorette Picciano, Executive Director of the Rural Coalition.

“Within our agricultural system there are a lot of inequities, and we need to take clear steps to address them—together,” said Laura Frerichs, who, along with her husband Adam Cullip and sons Eli and William, raise organic vegetables on Loon Organics Farm near Hutchinson. Frerichs serves on the Land Stewardship Project’s Board of Directors. “For us, this is a core value: we can’t move forward if we leave so many people behind.”

This legislation, which was introduced by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-M.D) and Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), is also supported by Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.).

Full text of the legislation is available here.