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Panel Highlights Ways for Farmers to Tap Into Federal Aid

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Thursday, April 14, 2022   

The federal Farm Service Agency provides loans and financial support to farmers across Virginia and the nation, and experts are encouraging farmers of color to tap into those resources.

Anita Roberson, farmer-owner at Botanical Bites and Provisions in Spotsylvania County and a member of the Farmers of Color Network, said in a panel discussion this week, the financial services provided by the FSA can be critical for early-career farmers, and the agency's Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program provides financial assistance for producers of traditionally noninsurable crops, such as honey and field-grown fruits and vegetables.

"And I think that's something all new farmers should get," Roberson asserted. "Because with climate change, you don't know whether you're going to have rain from year to year."

The Farm Service Agency has more info about its available programs online, but Roberson pointed out people can also visit their local FSA office in person to learn more about what support is available. Tuesday's panel discussion was organized by the Rural Advancement Foundational International-USA, which also offers educational resources and information for farmers across the country.

Roberson encouraged BIPOC farmers to get involved in their FSA County Committees, which act as a link between farming communities and officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Committee members also deliver FSA aid programs at the local level and determine what kind of programs are available in each county.

"One thing a lot of BIPOC farmers don't realize; these people are getting paid," Roberson noted. "They serve, but they're also paid servants. So you need to be involved in those elections, and you need to run for those positions."

Federal farm aid programs have historically discriminated against farmers of color. According to a 2019 report from the Center for American Progress, Black farmers lost 80% of their land from 1910 to 2007, largely driven by discrimination in the allocation of credit and aid by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agencies.


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