USDA PROGRAM FOR SOCIALLY DISADVANTAGED FARMERS
You are urged to support efforts to increase funding for the
Section 2501 program (of the 1990 Farm Bill) - Outreach and
Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers. This is
a critical year for refunding programs supported through this
CURRENT STATUS OF 2501 FUNDING:
The President's budget requested $10 million for this program.
Earlier this year, both the House and the Senate Appropriations
Committees appropriated only $3 million, the same amount as last
year. Last month, Marcy Kaptur (D - Ohio) successfully led an
effort to raise the level available for this program to $10
million in the House. Specifically, the House language
authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to transfer up to $7
million in FY 2000 for this program (in addition to the $3
million appropriation). Now the Senate needs to support this
The Senate will consider agriculture funding issues probably this
week. This is the opportunity to show support for either a floor
amendment or other Senate action to ensure increased funding for
this program from the current $3 million to the $10 million level
authorized in the original legislation.
Senator (Charles S.) Robb (D) of Virginia is taking the lead on
this issue. It is not clear that Senator Robb will submit this
as a floor amendment. Alternatively, he may promote some kind of
compromise during the House-Senate conference. This would be
riskier and less likely to get us to full funding, but it is also
worth supporting if a floor amendment would not pass in the
Senate. It is important that the Senate agree to the House
language that gives the Secretary authority to expand program
funding by $7 million.
WHAT TO DO: PLEASE ACT NOW!
Fax, mail, or email your Senators as soon as possible, as the
funding process will likely go forward this week or soon after.
Ask your Senators (particularly any on Appropriations) to contact
Senator Robb and to express their support for more funding for
this program. Also ask them to agree to co-sponsor a floor
amendment if he so chooses to take that route. Bipartisan
support would be most effective.
A concern regarding this funding is the source of the funding
offset. The House language authorizes these funds to come out of
Rural Housing, which is unsatisfactory. USDA is also concerned
and is currently looking for a more suitable offset for this
money. You should include this concern with your communication
to your Senators.
KEY SENATORS TO CONTACT: Key agriculture appropriations members
R - Cochran, Spector, Bond, Gorton, McConnell, Burns, Stevens
D - Kohl, Harkin, Dorgan, Feinstein, Durbin
However, Sen. Leahy (D) and other Senate Appropriation members
are also important to this process.
Senator Robb: Telephone - 202-224-4024
Ag. Aide - Kim Anderson: Tel. - 202-224-8025
BACKGROUND ON 2501 PROGRAM:
The Section 2501 program was part of the 1990 Farm Bill,
authorizing $10 million a year to carry out the provisions of the
legislation. It funds outreach and technical assistance to
encourage and assist socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers
to own and operate farms and ranches, and to participate in
Given the recent Civil Rights settlements, and the clear need for
this program as evidenced in the Civil Rights Action Team (CRAT)
Recommendations and reiterated in the USDA National Commission on
Small Farms Report of Jan,. 1998 report, it would seem incumbent
upon Congress to be sure this program is fully funded for FY
Farming opportunities for minorities and other disadvantaged
persons are limited. This is one a few programs that specifically
targets these constituencies, who can play a vital role in the
future of US farming.
The 2501 funds have mainly been used for multi-year grants,
mostly to the 1890 Land-Grant Colleges. In recent years,
Congress has severely underfunded the program, making it very
difficult for USDA to fully fund these multi-year
commitments. FY 2000 represents a critical year, as most of
these contracts are ending and another round of multi-year
programs needs to be funded. If the full $10 million is
available, it will significantly expand the numbers of
institutions that can receive these funds, and increase the
levels of awards that can be made.
In addition, expanded funds would allow other institutions
nationwide to participate in this program. The authorizing
legislation allows USDA to fund any community-based organizations
as well as post-secondary institutions with experience in
providing agricultural education and related services to socially
disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in all regions of the country.
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