USDA guide offers road map for Virginia farmers

Published 8:00 am Saturday, September 24, 2022

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Considerations for the 2023 Farm Bill are well underway among Washington legislators, but in the interim, the 2018 Farm Bill continues to bear fruit for American farmers.

The bill — officially the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 — included provisions that aimed to support historically underserved farmers, including minority producers, women, veterans, beginning and limited-resource farmers.

To fulfill that mission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Production and Conservation agencies have produced a guide to help disadvantaged farmers better utilize USDA’s network of agencies and resources.

Published in July, “Get Started: Resources for Historically Underserved Farmers and Ranchers” serves as a road map for producers as they make their first connections with USDA.

The 40-page document includes information on how to work with USDA’s Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Risk Management Agency.

The FSA section of the guide provides information about loans and programs offered by the agency, including those that specifically aid underserved farmers and ranchers, and information on disaster assistance.

The guide also outlines how farmers can get in touch with the NRCS for help to develop conservation plans, apply for financial assistance to implement them, and determine their eligibility for certain programs.

Lastly, growers can learn about crop insurance qualifications in the RMA section.

Other topics addressed include urban agriculture and organic certification. Readers also can learn about additional resources offered by USDA and other agencies, such as local conservation districts and state agriculture or natural resource departments.

USDA’s new guide for underserved farmers “should help producers focus their search for services and assistance they may require,” said Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

“USDA is a large agency with numerous programs. It can be a daunting search for anyone unfamiliar with the agency,” he continued. “This guide will be especially helpful for locating programs and services of interest to beginning, limited-resource, socially disadvantaged, veteran and women farmers and ranchers who are looking to get their start in agriculture or utilize the resources that are available to them.”