Historically underserved producers – what does it mean?

rice field

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) often talks about special programs available to “historically underserved” farmers and ranchers. However, it’s not immediately clear what the USDA means by this classification. We break it down for you here. 

Historically underserved producers fall into 4 main categories, according to the USDA.  These are:

  • limited resource farmers or ranchers
  • beginning farmers or ranchers
  • socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers
  • veteran farmers or ranchers.

How do you know if you are a part of one of those groups? Let’s dive into who qualifies for each special identity group. If you meet every criteria in the group, then you can apply to USDA programs in that category.

Limited Resource Farmer or Rancher

Individual producers whose:

  • total sales this year (before expenses) are less than the recorded value of the previous two years
  • total household income is less than or equal to the national poverty level for a four person family OR less than 50% of your county’s median household income for the last two years

A business (entity or joint operation) falls into this group if all members qualify. 

Beginning Farmer or Rancher

Individual producers who:

  • have operated a farm or ranch for less than 10 consecutive years
  • will contribute management, or labor and management to the farm or ranch that is essential to its function, in line with what the county or State requires

A business (entity or joint operation) falls into this group if all members qualify.

Socially Disadvantaged Farmer or Rancher

Individual producers who are a part of a group that experiences racial and ethinic discrimination due to being part of the group, regradless of personal matters. This includes:

  • American Indians or Alaskan Natives
  • Asians
  • Blacks or African Americans 
  • Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders
  • Hispanics

A business (entity or joint operation) falls into this group if half of the ownership is in this category. 

Veteran Farmer or Rancher 

Individual producers who: 

  • served in the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard, including the reserve
  • was released with honor
  • has operated a farm or ranch for less than 10 years or became a veteran within the last 10 years

A business (entity or joint operation) falls into this group if all members qualify.

You can learn more about historically underserved special identity groups here and here.

What does this mean for you?

Through the EQIP and CSP programs, the USDA-NRCS pays farmers to implement conservation practices. If you are a historically underserved farmer, you receive higher payment rates (up to 90% of the costs of a practice covered, versus the standard 50 to 75%). You are also eligible to receive half of the funds in advance, which is notable given that these programs are usually reimbursement only. 

USDA also prioritizes historically underserved farmers by setting aside specific pools of funding. You would get priority consideration, for example, if you were to apply for an FSA microloan or NRCS conservation program.

There are also situations in which the USDA offers programs that only historically underserved farmers can tap into, like the new loan forgiveness program for socially disadvantaged farmers. 

Do you have questions about whether your farm qualifies for some of these benefits? Reach out to us at info@farmraise.com, or sign up for FarmRaise today.

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