Minority Farmers Advise Vilsack

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Minority Farmer Advisory Committee on Agriculture held its first meeting.  The goals of the committee are to increase minority influence in USDA decisions and to voice the thoughts and concerns of minority farmers.

The committee was initially authorized as a part of the 2008 Farm Bill and will directly advise Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Appointees serve for up to two years and represent underrepresented farmers and ranchers as well as representatives of nonprofits groups that work with minority farmers and ranchers.

Part of the impetus for the creation of this group was the bad press that the USDA has received over the last several years regarding minority groups. In 2010, the USDA and Secretary Vilsack settled three major lawsuits involving African American, Native American, and Hispanic American farmers who all claimed that they has been denied loans due to their race and ethnicity. In the wake of these lawsuits, Vilsack promised to reach out to minority farmers.

Some of the initial concerns voiced at the meeting involved the importance of farm subsidies. While many of the participating farmers lauded the importance of farm subsidies, they were concerned about the discrepancies they have seen in subsidy payments to white and non-white farmers.  In addition, many desired a more streamlined loan process to help underrepresented farmers purchase land.

The concerns raised at the meeting will be sent to Secretary Vilsack, who will distribute them to various farm service agencies and will consider including them in drafts of upcoming agricultural legislation.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer