PROMOTING PARTICIPATION OF SMALL SOCIALLY DISADVANTAGED PRODUCERS IN USDA PROGRAMS, AND SUSTAINABLE OWNERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT OF FARMS IN KENTUCKY
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The Kentucky State University (KSU) College of Agriculture, Community and the Sciences (ACE) has received a Small Socially-Disadvantaged Producer Grant (SSDPG) from United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Business Cooperative Service with the goal of increasing participation of small and socially disadvantaged producers (SSDPs) in USDA programs and providing need-based technical assistance. While Kentucky’s SSDPs are highly enthusiastic about farming, they face numerous challenges that make it difficult to sustain a farm and agricultural business. These include:
- a lack of sufficient information about USDA and other farm business programs and services;
- a lack of or insufficient capital, labor, training and technical assistance;
- insufficient information about innovative farming techniques, pricing methods for agricultural products, market information, and
- increasing costs of farm inputs and supplies.
Hurdles like these have made it extremely difficult for SSDPs to sustain their farming operations and participate in innovative agricultural practices. This one-year pilot project is designed to:
- Educate SSDPs about USDA programs for increasing their participation in the full range of USDA programs and services,
- Facilitate SSDPs in registering and owning farms and farmlands and provide counseling on the USDA class action lawsuits and claims processes and farm ownership;
- Provide training and outreach to SSDPs in developing cooperatives and networking and engaging in farm businesses; and
- Provide one-on-one need-based technical assistance, education, and training in a wide range of farm planning, production, processing, and farm and financial risk management strategies.
This project will assist at least 150 small socially disadvantaged producers (SSDPs) from 41 rural counties from central, western, southern and eastern Kentucky. These counties meet the definition of rural area and have populations of less than 50,000. The SSDPs in these counties own more than 60% of total farms owned statewide by the SSDPs (Census of Agriculture, 2007). The majority of target SSDPs include African-Americans, Latinos/Hispanics, Native Americans, and other SSDPs. The project will identify specific groups of SSDPs for need-based, one-on-one technical assistance, education, and outreach services. In Kentucky, the number of SSDPs and SSDP-owned or managed farms has increased since 2007. However, the average return from these farms has not increased at the same rate as other groups over the period. SSDPs have not been remarkably successful in utilizing USDA’s technical assistance, subsidies and other programs and services (KSU Small Farm Conference Report, 2012).
Recent presentations regarding Small and Socially Disadvantaged Farmer resources:
- Cooperative Market Development
- Developing a Cooperative Marketing Plan
- Agribusiness Risk Management
- Value Added Producer Grant Program
Over a 12-month period, the project will provide technical assistance and needs-based personal outreach services to at least 150 SSDPs from Kentucky’s 41 rural counties with higher proportions of SSDPs that are underserved by USDA programs. The expected outcomes of the project are:
- increased knowledge about and participation in USDA programs,
- increased entitlement of farmlands,
- increased networking of SSDPs for farm inputs purchase, sharing and marketing of farm products through cooperative efforts,
- increased interests in organic agriculture, agroforestry, niche markets, ethnic and medicinal fruits/vegetable production,
- increased use of computer and mapping resources for farm records keeping, resources profiling, financial management, enterprise budgeting, and whole farm planning.
This project will:
- involve more SSDPs in participatory decision making and in mentoring to other SSDPs in their vicinity;
- develop positive attitudes toward cooperative development, climate change and environmental stewardship; and
- participate more in national to community level meetings and decision making process.
It is anticipated that the project will increase SSDP’s self-confidence, help them better understand farm bills, the legislative process and other issues that require public debate and voting at all levels. Program participants also will learn about the efficient use and increased retention of farmland for sustained farm productivity and profitability.
This project is supported by USDA/SSDPG Grant Number SSDPG-01-20-37-646489357.