On March 16th, Shakera Raygoza, owner of Terra Preta Farm and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) Technical Assistant at the National Young Farmers Coalition, testified in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture on the role that USDA programs can play in addressing climate change and the need for making these programs more accessible to young and BIPOC farmers. She spoke about her own experiences utilizing USDA programs to build resiliency on her farm and the ways these programs could be improved to serve more farmers.
Young and BIPOC farmers face many barriers to accessing USDA programs. Crop insurance is not affordable for small-scale farmers, and disaster relief programs are not accessible to small and diversified farms. Programs like EQIP rely on a reimbursement model that is not feasible for farmers short on capital or saddled with other types of debt. Many programs have lengthly application processes that are difficult for many small-scale farmers to complete, and the programs themselves are often designed for large-scale commodity farmers and don’t meet the unique needs of small, diversified operations.
Shakera stressed that young and BIPOC farmers would benefit from 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. Because young farmers are ready for climate action, but often lack the capital to invest in climate-smart practices, she encouraged more programs that provide upfront funding to farmers instead of placing the burden of financing onto farmers. Young and BIPOC farmers are the future of agriculture and they need support from USDA to continue sustainably growing food for their communities while dealing with climate change.