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Resources for Resilient Farms

A new RAFI-USA project designed to help farmers of color access certain FSA programs

We often hear from farmers who ask us what programs or funding is out there to help them build or expand their farming operation. Luckily, between the USDA, State Departments of Agriculture, and other local entities, there are many grants, programs, and services available to farmers that can strengthen the viability of their operations. But availability isn’t always enough. This is especially true for farmers who produce on a small-scale, produce specialty commodities, or are considered beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers – due to the fact that many of these programs were originally designed to assist large-scale, commodity farmers. 

Resources for Resilient Farms is a project of RAFI-USA that focuses on outreach and technical assistance for USDA programs that would support greater farm resilience for those within RAFI-USA’S Farmers of Color Network. 

RAFI-USA’S Current USDA program focus areas include:

  • Disaster Relief Programs
  • Noninsured Crop Assistance Program (NAP)
  • Registering for a Farm Number

Resources for Resilient Farms helps farmers:

  • Become aware of the programs and services offered by the FSA.
  • Determine which program is best suited for them and their farm situation.
  • Determine eligibility and application requirements for programs.
  • Form relationships with FSA agents in their state and county offices.
  • Troubleshoot the application process.

Explore more about USDA programs and other services that may benefit your farm by checking out our Resources page. You can also find information about upcoming trainings or recordings of webinars on the Events page. Or click on “Request Technical Assistance” above to learn how you can contact us for one-on-one help in navigating USDA programs.

Why it’s important

Since 1990, RAFI-USA has worked with small and mid-sized farmers to help them succeed in the face of financial crises and reverse the trend of farm loss. Over time, RAFI-USA recognized that farmers of color faced specific difficulties that were putting their farms and livelihoods in peril.  By 2044, the U.S. is projected to have a majority-minority population, yet the U.S. farming community remains dominated by white men. Farmers of color represent less than 4% of all owner-operators. 

In 2015, RAFI-USA began a project to increase the participation of historically marginalized farmers of color on Farm Service Agency or Soil and Water Conservation District committees.  We learned that because of past bad experiences with FSA and being tokenized on such committees, most farmers of color were unwilling to engage further in that direction. That experience led to us forming our Farmers of Color Network (FOCN) led by people of color. FOCN provides farmers various types of support and prioritizes acquiring and then re-granting infrastructure funds to farmers, as that is what our analysis shows is, in part, needed to repair generations of farmers of color being under-resourced in government programs and by private lenders. We see the current corrective push by the USDA and Congress as a movement in the right direction. 

RAFI-USA has a long history of conducting outreach and technical assistance regarding disaster assistance for farmers. This has included the development of online and written materials, providing one-on-one technical assistance with navigating disaster relief programs, and providing emergency relief grants. RAFI-USA’s experience working with farmers on disaster assistance allows us to be agile and quickly mobilize resources and assistance when disasters strike. 

Funding Background

RAFI-USA is one of 56 organizations that received funding to provide outreach and technical assistance to historically underserved farmers and ranchers through an FSA Program Outreach and Technical Assistance Cooperative Agreement. $4.7 million is being distributed to these organizations which will serve all states and territories in accessing FSA programs.  RAFI-USA will provide outreach and assistance to members of its Farmers of Color Network (FOCN) as well as other farmers of color in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic, with a focus on FSA Disaster Assistance programs as well as on upcoming COVID-19 relief programs. Staff will also focus on alerting FOCN members and other farmers of color about the broader spectrum of available FSA programs and services.

Stay tuned for more information. To sign up to receive notifications please join RAFI-USA’s mailing list and check that you are interested in receiving information about the Farmers of Color Network.

Farmers! Watch our webinar on How to Work with Farm Service Agency (FSA)WATCH