The U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest up to $550 million to expand access to land, finance, and markets for certain farmers and to provide educational opportunities for students at institutions of higher learning that cater to racial and ethnic minorities. Distribute million dollars.
“The idea here is clearly to expand the number of people in this very important profession and mission,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. . “Why? Because the farming population is aging. Why? Because we want to build vibrant local and regional food systems that are more resilient than those exposed by the pandemic. Why? Because we think it will help economic opportunities in communities and small towns.”
New federal funding opportunities are being created by two broad appropriation bills—the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act—that will spend up to $300 million on projects that help underserved farmers. increase. They generally include farmers who have received no or limited support from USDA programs in the past. This includes new farmers and ranchers, low-income earners, and racial or ethnic minorities.
Vilsack named veterans as a key underserved group in Iowa.
“Iowa is home to so many veterans that historically it’s a group of people who wanted to start farming but struggled to figure out how,” he said.
The USDA is seeking proposals for projects that are “innovative and take underserved producers from survival to prosperity.” The application deadline is October 28th.
At the same time, Virsak said the USDA was working to provide billions of dollars in debt relief to struggling farmers, with about a fifth of the USDA’s agricultural loans delinquent or delinquent. indicated that
USDA Announces Funding for Agricultural Education
Also on Wednesday, the USDA announced up to $250 million in funding for colleges and universities that serve minorities to help educate food and agriculture professionals, especially those who would eventually work for the federal government.
Eligible applicants are 1890 Land Grant Agency, 1994 Land Grant Agency, Agencies Serving Alaska Natives, Agencies Serving Native Hawaiians, Agencies Serving Accredited Hispanics, and those located in U.S. Territories. It is a higher education institution in the island region.
A portion of that money will support internships and fellowships that place students in workplaces, including USDA.
“Approximately 120 scholars are receiving assistance under existing USDA programs this year, which I believe is a record number,” he said.
The country’s agricultural industry as a whole is aging, he warned. The latest agricultural census, conducted in 2017, revealed that the average age of all farmers is 57.5 years old and 8% of farmers are under 35 years of age. The 2022 Census results are expected to be released in 2024.
“For those of us in the food and agri industry, it is really necessary and important that we continue to look for ways to recruit, train, educate and attract the next generation of leaders in USDA and the food and agri industry.
He said the new funding is “historic and part of the USDA’s unwavering commitment to promoting equality for all.”
Federal support for biofuel infrastructure
During a visit to a farm in central Iowa last week, Vilsack and Iowa Democratic Rep. Most important to Axne was his $500 million budget for biofuel infrastructure. This is becoming increasingly important as state and federal agencies seek to expand the availability of high-ethanol fuel blends.
Ethanol is an important market for Iowa’s corn, with more than half of the state’s crops used to produce ethanol.
“We know we can do more than just keep gas prices down at our pumps, create great jobs here in Iowa, and ensure that the problems climate change is causing are addressed.”
Ethanol is a cleaner-burning fuel than gasoline, which is made from petroleum, but research has questioned whether its overall carbon footprint is smaller than gasoline.
Virsak called the recent bill “the biggest investment in conservation since the Dust Bowl,” thanks to $18 billion in additional funding for existing USDA land conservation programs.
The Inflation Reduction Act also includes significant funding for forest management, drought mitigation and renewable energy projects in rural areas.
Like Idaho Capital Sun, Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of the States Newsroom, a network of news stations supported by a coalition of 501c(3) public charity grants and donors. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. If you have any questions, please contact editor Cathy Obradovic. [email protected]Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and twitter.