FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: https://www.youngfarmers.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Screen-Shot-2021-08-17-at-2.19.49-PM-2-1.png, National Young Farmers Coalition
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Washington, D.C. (March 16, 2022 ) This morning, National Young Farmers Coalition member Shakera Raygoza shared a testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture. Raygoza is a Young Farmers Technical Assistant for USDA Farm Service Agency loans, and owner-operator of Terra Preta Farm in Edinburg, TX. Raygoza called on Congress to make farm bill conservation programs more accessible to young, beginning, and Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) farmers, particularly as they are dealing with the catastrophic impacts of climate change.
“Young farmers are the future of agriculture, but we need the support from USDA in order to continue sustainably growing food for our communities while dealing with a changing climate,” Raygoza said. “Despite being directly affected by climate change, we as farmers have the unique ability to sequester carbon in the soil by using climate-smart methods like planting cover crops, using no- and reduced tilling, and managed grazing.” She also noted that passage of bills like the Agriculture Resilience Act will be an important way to support young farmers who are on the front lines of the climate crisis.
Raygoza also described to the committee how climate change has impacted her work and livelihood. She described stronger and more frequent hurricanes and uncommon winter freezes that have resulted in the loss of crops, and therefore annual income.
“I’m currently still trying to navigate the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) to get help for those losses.” Raygoza said. “Unfortunately, communication between the local office has been painfully slow and USDA staff and technical assistance providers aren’t sure how to help a small-scale farmer like myself. Crop insurance is not affordable to farmers like me, and disaster relief programs are not accessible to small and diversified farms. To support the future of agriculture, USDA needs to change the way it serves young farmers.”
Raygoza stressed that young and BIPOC farmers would have benefited from having access to outreach programs, easily accessible online resources and tools, and technical assistance to help apply for USDA programs, in addition to well-trained staff in county offices who are aware of the needs of small-scale farmers. She stressed that programs that provide upfront funding to farmers instead of placing the burden of financing onto farmers without access to credit would be the most helpful.
“Farm bill conservation programs are a critical tool in the fight against climate change, but more work needs to be done to fully enable farmers to invest in on-farm conservation. By making these programs work for young, beginning, small, and BIPOC farmers, USDA can support the next generation of farmers and ranchers, transition productive farmland, and revitalize our nation’s rural communities,” said Lotanna Obodozie, Climate Campaign Director with the National Young Farmers Coalition.
The National Young Farmers Coalition (Young Farmers) is a national grassroots network of young farmers changing policy and shifting power to equitably resource the new generation of working farmers. Visit Young Farmers on the web at www.youngfarmers.org, and on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.