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Minority Farm Program at Risk

PHOTO: Mien growers learning about sustainable strawberry production in a program that's at risk of losing funding if Congress doesn't act on a farm bill soon. Photo credit: NCAT
PHOTO: Mien growers learning about sustainable strawberry production in a program that's at risk of losing funding if Congress doesn't act on a farm bill soon. Photo credit: NCAT
November 28, 2012

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California's immigrant and minority farmers may be losing access to an innovative program that helps train them to become successful farmers. The "Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program" could lose funding if Congress doesn't act on a Farm Bill soon.

Rex Dufour is regional office director with NCAT, the National Center for Appropriate Technology, a group that trains farmers in organic and sustainable ways to conserve soil and produce crops and livestock. He says the program, also known as "2501," allows them to develop workshops and information that's much easier for this diverse group of farmers to understand.

"There's lots and lots of information out there. The problem is it's not really accessible to a lot of these groups, so we try and make it a little bit more accessible by putting it into their language and also by making it easier to understand, and that benefits everybody."

If the 2501 program were to permanently disappear, Dufour says, NCAT and many other nonprofit organizations would be hard-pressed to train and develop informational materials for farmers who have been historically underserved by traditional outreach methods.

Dufour says they provide clear, concise and sometimes brand-new information.

"Many of the growers we've talked to, nobody's ever talked to them about the life in the soil and how you have to care for the soil. That's an important component of sustainable agriculture, but if nobody's ever told you, then you don't really know how to manage soil very well."

Dufour says just as the U.S. overall population is becoming more diverse, so are America's farmers.

"We need to get new farmers and we need to train them in sustainable farming techniques, and the 2501 Program is one of the ways to do that. And I think it's really important. We need to be able to feed ourselves in a sustainable fashion."

According to the Agriculture Department, the average age of America's farmers is around 60 years, and increasing every year.

More information is at SustainableAgriculture.net.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA