Historically underserved producers get special benefits when applying for programs with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). For example, they’re eligible for higher payment rates or even receiving 50 percent of funds up front for cost share programs. This is pretty exciting! So who qualifies as a "historically underserved producer?"
Historically underserved producers fall into four main categories:
Still not clear? Let’s dive into each of the categories.
Let’s take a closer look at who qualifies for each special identity group.
There is a very specific definition and set of criteria to meet for this category. We highly recommend using this tool from the USDA to verify if you qualify as a limited resource producer.
As a quick summary, a producer is considered “limited resource” if:
That’s how a person qualifies as a limited resource producer. But what if you want to apply for funding as a business?
If your farm or ranch applies for funding as a business, your business will only qualify for “limited resource” funds and benefits if every member of your business meets the criteria to be considered limited resource farmers or ranchers.
Individual farmers or ranchers who:
If your farm or ranch applies for funding as a business, your business will only qualify for “beginning farmer” funds and benefits if all members of your business meet the criteria to be considered beginning farmers or ranchers.
The USDA defines a “socially disadvantaged” farmer or rancher as an individual producer who is “part of a group that experiences racial and ethnic discrimination due to being part of the group, regardless of personal matters.” This includes:
If your farm or ranch applies for funding as a business, your business will only qualify for “socially disadvantaged” funds and benefits if at least half of the members of your business meet these criteria.
You could be considered a veteran farmer or rancher if you’re an individual producer who:
If your farm or ranch applies for funding as a business, your business will only qualify for “veteran” funds and benefits if all of the members of your business meet these criteria.
We get a lot of questions about special funding for farmers and ranchers who are women. The USDA does not currently consider women under the historically underserved category.
Currently there are no programs specified for women farmers but there have been pushes to include women in agriculture finance programs.
Here’s an example: The National Women in Agriculture Association calling for the “sustainable support of minority children and women farmers who are NOT currently being reached by the USDA's valuable extension programs and the American Rescue Plan funding.”
If you’re interested in scholarships for women in agriculture or would like to support women farmers, check out these tips from our FarmRaise Morning Briefing.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) pays farmers to implement conservation practices. Two of their most popular funding opportunities are the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) programs.
If you are a historically underserved farmer, you could 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 could get priority consideration, for example, if you were to apply for an FSA microloan or the NRCS conservation program.
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