Costa Virtual Event Helps Disadvantaged, Minority Farmers Gain Equal Access to Federal Programs
FRESNO – In an effort to ensure socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers have equal access to federal resources, Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture, held a virtual event for African American, Hispanic, Indian and other disadvantaged farming communities from the San Joaquin Valley to meet with officials about how to take advantage of federal programs:
“The farmers and ranchers we talked to today have smaller operations, but they are no less critical to feeding America,” said Rep. Costa. “I want to ensure they have every opportunity for success and it’s my hope that today’s webinar helps them receive the resources available to them. I fought for the expansion of these programs, and I will do all I can to eliminate the disparities these farmers have seen for far too long.”
The event included presentations from representatives of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resource Conservation Service. The officials answered questions and directed attendees on how to access funding resources, the qualifications and criteria for farmers and ranchers to receive such funding, and how to set up appointments to meet with local USDA representatives.
Socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers (SDFRs) face many obstacles, including unequal access to loans and markets. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s estimated that black farmers received 0.1 percent of the nearly $26 billion in aid that has gone to farmers. The 1,000 Southeast Asian farmers in the Central Valley also report issues with receiving relief funding. Mitigating these problems is one of Rep. Costa’s top priorities.
In March, Rep. Costa called on USDA Sec. Tom Vilsack to transform the USDA to better reflect the diversity of the United States, such as ensuring local USDA offices have staff who can represent and support minority farmers with culturally appropriate resources.
Rep. Costa also released a report, prepared by staff who spent months talking to farmers, community-based organizations, and government agencies about to their concerns, and which suggested policy solutions focused on the following areas:
- Building awareness of government programs: Finding new ways to increase awareness of USDA and other federal programs and services available to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers;
- Including Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers in policy discussions and implementation: Creating a system for these farmers to participate in the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of food and agriculture laws, regulations, policies, and programs;
- Empowering Community Organizations: Providing opportunities for non-governmental outreach organizations to play a more active role in providing additional resources for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.