The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Advocacy and Outreach (OAO) awarded a $79,983 grant to Virginia State University (VSU) in 2011.
The grant was awarded to VSU to identify and address the root causes of inequitable participation of Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers (SDFR) in USDA agricultural programs. The project’s primary focus area covered twenty (20) selected counties in Virginia. The general objective of the project was to develop a set of strategies for reducing the extension service delivery gaps limiting the participation of Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers in Virginia.
The specific objectives of the project were:
- To collect and analyze information on the actual and potential socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in selected counties in Virginia.
- To conduct outreach activities with the specific purpose of identifying root causes of failure to achieve equitable participation in USDA agricultural programs by Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers, as well as development of recommended solutions.
- To develop and deploy improved approaches for outreach and technical assistance.
- To collect and analyze information on the success of adopted approaches.
Over the course of the January 2011 to December 2012 project period, three (3) major conferences were conducted and over 400 surveys were administered to small-scale farmers, ranchers, extension service providers and USDA agencies in Virginia. The project personnel also conducted two follow up workshops for farmers and service providers, several one-on-one meetings, focus group meetings and participated in, and facilitated several other conferences, workshops and training sessions during the project period.
This report provides a compilation of the factors that were identified by famers and extension service providers as limiting the participation of farmers and ranchers that are often referred to as “socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers,” in USDA Agricultural programs. The report also contains a list of forty-five (45) strategies that are proposed for addressing and enhancing participation of these target farmers and ranchers in USDA agricultural programs. Some of these strategies were evaluated during the project period and our findings on their effectiveness are also presented in the report. While these recommendations do not offer a one-time panacea for all the problems these small farmers face, the project offers some tested strategies that will potentially increase the participation of “socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers” in USDA agricultural programs in Virginia State, with potentially comparable level of effectiveness in other states in the country for farmers with similar characteristics. Our Hope is that, a project like this could be conducted in other states to build on the project findings and also develop a tool-kit of effective strategies for boosting small farm productivity across the nation.