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Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham

Representing the 1st District of New Mexico

Lujan Grisham, Van Hollen Introduce Bill to Help Veteran, Socially Disadvantaged Farmers

May 15, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) and Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) introduced legislation to improve access to assistance for certain groups of farmers. The Assist Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Act of 2018 would reauthorize, strengthen, and improve the Outreach to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program at the Department of Agriculture (USDA). The legislation was co-sponsored by Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M) and Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.). The bill is supported by over 100 groups, from the Rural Coalition to the Sierra Club to the National Family Farm Coalition. Background on the proposal, along with a full list of supporting organizations, can be found here.

“Since 2003, New Mexico has received 25 grants through this program that have helped underserved communities including veterans to spur economic growth and create jobs in ranching and farming,” Representative Lujan Grisham explained. “This program is critical for underserved populations to gain access to USDA’s credit, commodity, conservation, and other programs and services, all of which result in a real return for every dollar invested. For example, USDA recently awarded the Desert Forge Foundation a $200,000 grant to help provide training and meaningful employment to veterans on their three successful working farms in Albuquerque.”

“Whether you’re coming off the battlefield or trying to launch a new career, starting and operating a farm isn’t easy. This legislation will help veterans and underserved populations get the training and support they need to succeed,” said Senator Van Hollen. “We want to expand America’s farming opportunities, and this bill is an important tool to accomplish that. I’m proud to introduce this legislation with my colleagues, and we will work to include it in the next Farm Bill.”

For nearly three decades, the Outreach to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program at USDA has been the primary tool to help our nation’s underserved producers gain access to USDA services. The program is administered by the Office of Outreach and Advocacy and helps ensure that veteran, minority population, and immigrant farmers and ranchers have opportunities to successfully own, operate, and retain farms and ranches, and to equitably participate in USDA programs. The bill reauthorizes the Outreach to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, which expires this year, through 2023. It also makes several programmatic improvements to strengthen the operation of the program.

"The Outreach to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program helps underserved communities gain access to USDA's credit, commodity, and conservation programs," said Representative Luján. "This legislation restores funding to the program and makes key improvements to increase the effectiveness of this program to support New Mexico's veteran and minority farmers and ranchers."

“We need to fight for all farmers—and that includes making sure we’re advocating for Minnesotans and Americans who may face unique barriers to successfully owning and operating farms,” said Senator Smith. “As a member of the Senate Ag Committee, I’m proud to support this bill because supporting a diverse and growing farming industry is good for families and good for our economy.”

“Farmers are the backbone of the economy in Alabama and across our country,” said Senator Jones. “The Outreach to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program has provided opportunities for underserved members in the agriculture community for decades. I am proud to join legislation that extends and builds on this important resource for veteran and minority farmers and ranchers.”

"From cattle ranchers to chile growers, New  Mexico’s farmers and ranchers help feed the nation and the world while growing our state’s economy,” said Senator Udall. “But with our farming workforce rapidly aging, it’s critical that we find smart ways to empower a new and diverse generation of farmers and ranchers. On the Agriculture Appropriations Committee, I'll keep fighting for resources for common-sense programs to lift barriers and help open doors for hopeful new farmers – particularly veterans and those from underserved communities -across our state, from Rio Arriba to Doña Ana county."

"Ensuring a diverse generation of farmers and ranchers have access to assistance programs is important to continuing New Mexico's long tradition in agriculture," said Senator Heinrich. "By improving access to the Outreach to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program at USDA we can support New Mexico farmers and ranchers, create jobs and strengthen our state's economy.”

“For nearly 3 decades, the Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers (OASDVFR) Program has been USDA’s primary tool to assure our nation’s historically underserved producers secure real access to USDA program that help farmers and ranchers care for their land and water, and build viable and sustainable farming operations. The Rural Coalition and our members have supported the program since its inception and we are deeply grateful to Senator Van Hollen and Senator Smith, and Rep. Lujan Grisham for taking leadership to extend and improve this critical program,” said Lorette Picciano, Executive Director of the Rural Coalition.

Text of the legislation can be found here.