RAFI-USA Enters Conservation Cooperative Agreement with USDA

[Pittsboro, NC – May 31, 2022] Edna Rodriguez, Executive Director of Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA (RAFI-USA), is pleased to announce that RAFI-USA has been awarded funding to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in expanding access to conservation assistance for climate-smart agriculture and forestry. $50 million has been invested in 118 Conservation Cooperative Agreements, administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The two-year project is aimed at serving farmers who are new to farming, low-income, socially disadvantaged, or military veterans.

For this project, RAFI-USA is partnering with two organizations and two farms:  Alliance for Agriculture (Puerto Rico), (U.S.) Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition, Green Heffa Farms in North Carolina, and Fountain Heights Farm in Alabama. RAFI-USA and its partners will collaborate on conducting regionally appropriate outreach and technical assistance to Black, Indigenous, and other farmers of color in the Southeast, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and across the U.S. This support will help these farmers access NRCS technical and financial assistance programs focused on one or more of the following key conservation priorities: 

  • Improving soil health and water quality
  • Providing habitat for at-risk wildlife
  • Improving natural resources and productivity on agricultural lands
  • Building and strengthening local and regional food systems and markets

“We are pleased to be a part of this important project which centers historically underserved farmers and climate-smart agriculture,” Edna Rodriguez said. “This project allows us to continue focusing on serving members of our Farmers of Color Network who are based in the Southeast U.S. and paves the way for our planned expansion in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The online materials that will be available on our website will further the reach of the project to farmers across the U.S.”

This project sits alongside a RAFI-USA FSA (USDA Farm Service Agency) Cooperative Agreement, designed to open doors to FSA for farmers of color in the Southeast. These two projects are a part of the umbrella project “Resources for Resilient Farms (RfRF).”  Services provided via RAFI-USA’s RfRF project can be accessed by emailing [email protected] or calling 877.207.6373. These projects are managed by Director of Technical Assistance and Farmer Outreach, Lisa Misch.

RAFI-USA has for 30 years been helping farmers most in need through its Financial Crisis Hotline, guiding farmers through some of the most precarious financial situations like bankruptcy, foreclosure, severe market fluctuations, and natural disasters. “Because of our long history of crisis counseling, RAFI-USA is well-positioned to lead a multi-tiered project like Resources for Resilient Farms,” Rodriguez added.

In announcing this Conservation Cooperative project, USDA Secretary Vilsack said, “We are committed to equal opportunity for those we serve, and we are taking bold, historic action to advance equity and root out generations of systemic racism. As we’ve said before: equity will be a vital part of our climate change work, as America’s farmers and rural communities are on the frontlines of climate change. Our work with producers and partners will invest in climate-smart solutions that improve profitability and resilience, open new market opportunities, and build wealth that stays in rural communities.”  

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