WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) last week announced the availability of $8.4 million in competitive grants to support the work of partner organizations that provide training, outreach and technical assistance for socially disadvantaged, Tribal and Veteran farmers and ranchers. USDA's Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, also known as the 2501 Program, is administered by the Office of Advocacy and Outreach (OAO).
"Diverse experiences, background and education are vital to a healthy agricultural sector that continues to meet the challenges of a changing world and the demands of markets at home and abroad," said Acting Deputy Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse. "The 2501 Program is an important part of how USDA partners with land-grant universities, Tribal colleges, Tribes, nonprofits and other community-based organizations to grow the next generation of agricultural innovators and entrepreneurs that keep American agriculture the most productive anywhere."
Since 2010, more than $74 million has been invested through the 2501 Program to leverage the work of more than 300 local partners. The 2014 Farm Bill reauthorized the program and expanded assistance to include military veterans.
Partner organizations provide a range of services and technical assistance based on local needs. Last fall, for example, 2501 funding was used to create the Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center at Alcorn State University, in Lorman, Miss. The Center will provide a national hub for analysis and development of policy recommendations to improve engagement and promote the interests of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
Proposals for these competitive grants must be received by July 29, 2016 at www.grants.gov. Details are available in the June 27, 2016 Federal Register Notice or by contacting USDA, by mail at Office of Advocacy and Outreach, Attn: Kenya Nicholas, Program Director, Whitten Building, Room 520-A, Mail Stop 0601, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20250, by phone: (202) 720-6350, Fax: (202) 720-7704, or email OASDVFR2016@osec.usda.gov.
OAO works across USDA agencies to improve the viability and profitability of small and beginning farmers and ranchers; improve access to USDA programs for historically underserved communities; increase agricultural opportunities for farm workers; and close the professional achievement gap by providing opportunities for diverse, talented young people to support the agricultural industry in the 21st century.
The 2501 program supports USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food ( KYF2) Initiative that coordinates the Department's work to develop strong local and regional food systems. USDA is committed to helping farmers, ranchers, and businesses access the growing market for local and regional foods, which industry estimates valued at $12 billion in 2014.