FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jessica Manly, Communications Director, National Young Farmers Coalition
firstname.lastname@example.org, 518-643-3564 ext. 722
Washington, D.C. (August 24, 2022) Today, USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced a historic $550 million investment in “projects that enable underserved producers to access land, capital, and markets, and train the next, diverse generation of agricultural professionals.” This funding will be available through the American Rescue Plan, as amended by the Inflation Reduction Act which was signed into law on August 16, 2022.
“The creative investments announced by Secretary Vilsack this morning are responsive to the needs and requests of young and BIPOC farmers across the country who name access to affordable, quality farmland as their top challenge in building successful careers in agriculture. With this announcement, USDA is taking another big step forward in resourcing a long-term transformation of our food and agriculture systems. This transformation must be towards resilience, community health, and equity—toward systems that celebrate the vast diversity of people, businesses, organizations, and institutions that work to keep our communities fed,” said Vanessa García Polanco, Policy Campaigns Co-Director at Young Farmers.
Specifically, today’s announcement includes: up to $300 million for eligible organizations working to improve land access, access to capital, or market access for underserved producers; and a $250 million investment in “career development opportunities for next gen scholars at minority-serving institutions.” This exciting announcement builds on the more than $2 billion in food systems transformation investments announced by the Secretary in June, and together, these investments are a downpayment on a fresh vision for our food and agriculture systems.
This announcement also builds on USDA’s three-pronged approach to addressing inequities, as reiterated today by the Secretary:
- Establishing the Equity Commission to identify and address systemic barriers to full access to USDA programs;
- Conducting an internal departmental review to develop detailed equity plans in each Mission Area, which together include over 500 recommendations and will inform a forthcoming USDA diversity, equity, inclusion, and access strategy and implementation plan—and naming an acting Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO) and moving forward with hiring a permanent CDIO soon, and finally;
- Improving existing programs and funding pathways to advance equity.
“Today’s investments from USDA come at a critical moment—young farmers and land stewards across the country are struggling to access land at the same time that millions of acres are predicted to change hands. This challenge is particularly acute for BIPOC farmers, who have faced generations of systemic dispossession and discrimination. Through today’s announcement, USDA is supporting the necessary and inspired work that community-led organizations are already doing to facilitate a just transition of land to the next generation of growers. We look forward to working with our partners and with the Department to communicate the opportunity in these funding announcements and to inform effective implementation. As we look ahead to the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill, we call on Congress to follow USDA’s lead by making a major investment in equitable access to land,” said Holly Rippon-Butler, the National Young Farmers Coalition’s Land Campaign Director.
“Young and BIPOC are leading the way in demonstrating the critical stewardship, resilience, and community level problem-solving needed to move towards an equitable agricultural future. This announcement is evidence that Secretary Vilsack and the Department are leaning forward in advancing policies and funding pathways to support this new generation of farmers—farmers who have been largely marginalized from influencing the policies that shape their future,” said David Howard, Policy Campaigns Co-Director at Young Farmers.
As with the investments in food systems transformation announced by USDA in June, these investments are critical, and yet are only possible because of remaining funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, as well as the Inflation Reduction Act. Fully resourcing a transformation of our food systems will require significant and consistent funding. We look forward to working with farmers, partner organizations, Congress, and the USDA to ensure that this investment is continued through the 2023 Farm Bill and the implementation work that will follow.
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.