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Accessing Government Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers

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Abstract and Figures

While there are now funding streams available for SDFRs, there is little or no research on minority groups and women’s experiences on accessing these funds and programs through the preexisting (and historically problematic) USDA programmatic and funding processes. Through an in-depth analysis of accessing funding experiences, this research aims to understand the structure of policies for agricultural promotion for available for SDFR at the NRCS, and the perspectives and experiences regarding access to NRCS funding among different groups of socially disadvantaged producers in Mississippi. The main goal of this project is to examine SDFRs’ perspectives and experiences when negotiating the process of applying for USDA-NRCS; the findings of this research provide valuable information on what variables can explain success in securing government funding for agriculture from the SDFRs’ viewpoint.
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ACCESSING USDA-NRCS FUNDING
FOR SOCIALLY DISADVANTAGED
FARMERS IN MISSISSIPPI
FUNDED BY:
ALCORN STATE UNIVERSITY - SOCIALLY DISADVANTAGED FARMERS AND RANCHERS POLICY
RESEARCH CENTER
LESLIE HOSSFELD, PHD - PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR
GINA RICO MENDEZ, PHD - CO-PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR
KELLI RUSSELL - RESEARCH ASSISTANT
MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY
Department of Sociology
FINAL REPORT
1
Acknowledgement
The research team at Mississippi State University- Department of Sociology and Social
Science Research Center is proud to present this report, here we show the results of an in-depth
analysis of policies and perceptions about accessing federal funding for agricultural conservation
in Mississippi. Specifically, this study aimed at understanding the structure of policies for
agricultural promotion available for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers at the United
States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS), and
the perspectives and experiences regarding access to funding among different groups of socially
disadvantaged producers in Mississippi.
This work would not have been possible without the financial support of the Alcorn State
University - Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center. The project
was funded under the 2017 Request for Research Proposals.
Recommended citation: Hossfeld, L., Rico Méndez, G. & Russell, K. (2018). Accessing
Government Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers. Prepared for the Socially
Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center, Alcorn State University.
2
Contents
Acknowledgement ....................................................................................................................................... 1
Executive Summary .................................................................................................................................... 4
List of Tables ............................................................................................................................................... 6
List of Figures .............................................................................................................................................. 6
Appendix ...................................................................................................................................................... 6
Introduction ................................................................................................................................................. 7
Methods ...................................................................................................................................................... 10
Policy Analysis ........................................................................................................................................ 10
Focus Groups .......................................................................................................................................... 10
Results and Discussion .............................................................................................................................. 12
I. Policy Analysis ................................................................................................................................ 12
1. Federal Policies .......................................................................................................................... 12
The Farm Bill .................................................................................................................................. 12
USDA Strategic Plan 2014 2018 ................................................................................................. 13
Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) ........................................................................... 14
Civil Rights at the NRCS ................................................................................................................ 15
NRCS Strategic Plan FY 2016-2018 .............................................................................................. 17
2. State- Level Programs ................................................................................................................ 18
NRCS Programs available in MS .................................................................................................... 19
Financial Assistance Programs ....................................................................................................... 19
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) ................................................................... 19
Conservation Innovation Grant Program (CIG) ........................................................................ 21
Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) ................................................................................ 22
Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) .............................................................................. 23
Easement Programs ......................................................................................................................... 23
Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) ............................................................. 23
II. Analysis of Focus Groups with Farmers ......................................................................................... 24
1. Description of Participants ........................................................................................................ 24
2. Coding Summary ........................................................................................................................ 24
Theme 1. “…To Get to That Point”: Sustainability ........................................................................ 25
Theme 2. “So many things”: Chief Barriers ................................................................................... 26
“It’s just a lot of unawareness”: Lack of Communication....................................................... 26
“Everything here is hidden”: Lack of Transparency ............................................................... 28
“Every office is different”: Lack of Uniformity – Lack of clear processes .............................. 31
3
Theme 3. “The Grapevine”: Success in Navigating Barriers .......................................................... 33
“The main resource is other experienced farmers”: Informal Network Sharing ................... 33
“A tremendous help…they keep me informed”: Formal Agricultural Organizations ............ 34
Conclusion ................................................................................................................................................. 36
Recommendations ..................................................................................................................................... 39
Appendix .................................................................................................................................................... 41
References .................................................................................................................................................. 50
4
Executive Summary
Introduction
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the chief entity responsible for ensuring
an ample and affordable supply of food for the country by promoting agricultural production,
innovating rural development, and preserving natural resources (USDA, 2013). Through farm
bill programs, the U.S. government seeks to accomplish these goals in the context of growing
demands for agricultural goods. However, USDA has been the source of several claims of
discrimination. Recently, the agency has been trying to repair past situations of discrimination
increasing diversity in its workforce, and expanding the scope of their programs to reach out
participants that were systematically excluded in the past (Leonard, 2011). Yet data show that
agricultural production remains a non-diverse industry. While there are now funding streams
available for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers (SDFR), there is little understanding of
why this group of farmers is still underrepresented in agriculture. This research focuses on
understanding minority groups and women’s experiences in accessing funds and programs for
agricultural promotion available for SDFR at the National Resource Conservation Service
(NRCS) in Mississippi.
Objective(s)
While there are now funding streams available for SDFRs, there is little or no research on
minority groups and women’s experiences on accessing these funds and programs through the
preexisting (and historically problematic) USDA programmatic and funding processes. Through
an in-depth analysis of accessing funding experiences, this research aims to understand the
structure of policies for agricultural promotion for available for SDFR at the NRCS, and the
perspectives and experiences regarding access to NRCS funding among different groups of
socially disadvantaged producers in Mississippi. The main goal of this project is to examine
SDFRs’ perspectives and experiences when negotiating the process of applying for USDA-
NRCS; the findings of this research provide valuable information on what variables can explain
success in securing government funding for agriculture from the SDFRs’ viewpoint.
Methods
This is a qualitative study that uses two types of research strategies: focus groups and policy
analysis. The policy analysis investigates NRCS conservation funding policies and programs
available for SDFR and starts by understanding the policy formation at the federal level, and its
5
implementation at the state and county levels in Mississippi where funding decisions take place.
The second critical piece of this research is the focus group work with SDFR in Mississippi
(eleven focus groups, with nighty-four participants); this research strategy aims to investigate the
perspectives and experiences among different groups of SDFR producers in Mississippi
regarding access to NRCS funding.
Discussion
We know that disparities exist in accessing government funding for agriculture (USDA, 2014a).
For the purposes of this study we are investigating these disparities in the case of the USDA-
NRCS. The discussion section presents results from the policy analysis of how NRCS
organizational structure, types and scope of programs, and guidelines and rules for program
application affect SDFR. Results from focus groups provide rich discussion on barriers to
accessing government agricultural funding for socially disadvantaged farmers.
Conclusion
NRCS has recently implemented strategies to increase participation of SDFRs in the agricultural
industry. Despite of their efforts, the increasing participation of these groups has been rather
slow. Therefore, the significance of the current work. The research began by asking what are the
SDFR perspectives and experiences regarding access to USDA-NRCS in Mississippi. As follow-
up questions we asked whether the regulations constitute a barrier to accessing NRCS funding
or, although programs exist, are there problems at the implementation level than can be
addressed in order to enhance the participation of SDFR in conservation programs? Derived
from the policy analysis and focus groups, three areas of concern emerged as relevant in the
NRCS work with SDFR: 1) sustainability; 2) organizational culture; and 3) communication.
Recommendations
Recommendations for action are in organized in three areas: 1) Sustainability: build upon “pride
and accomplishment” that comes from farming, to reinforce conservation efforts among minority
and limited resource producers; 2) Organizational Culture: increase transparency of funding
allocation criteria; increase awareness about the need to augment diversity in funding allocation
committees; strengthen current outreach efforts in consortium with agricultural organizations; 3)
Communication: improve communication strategies from NRCS towards SDFR; implement
strategies of outreach that includes technical and administrative training to leaders and
communities.
6
List of Tables
Table 1. United States. Farms with Women Principal Operators Compared with All Farms 2007
and 2012 .......................................................................................................................................... 9
Table 2. United States. Farms with Black or African American Operators Compared with All
Farms 2007 and 2012 ...................................................................................................................... 9
Table 3. Annual Budget Allocation for EQIP, FY 2014-2018 ..................................................... 20
Table 4. EQIP Mississippi and Total Obligations, by Fiscal Year ............................................... 20
Table 5. Mississippi, Geographical Regions and Priority Resource Concerns for CSP
Application, 2017 .......................................................................................................................... 22
Table 6. CSP Mississippi and Total Obligations, by Fiscal Year ................................................. 23
Table 7. WHIP Mississippi and Total Obligations, by Fiscal Year .............................................. 23
Table 8. ACEP Mississippi and Total Obligations, by Fiscal Year .............................................. 24
List of Figures
Figure 1. USDA Strategic Plan, FY2014 2018; strategic goal and objectives pertaining SDFR.
....................................................................................................................................................... 14
Figure 2. NRCS Organizational Chart. ......................................................................................... 15
Figure 3. NRCS Strategic Plan, FY2016 2018; objectives and strategic initiatives pertaining
SDFR............................................................................................................................................. 18
Appendix
Appendix 1 A. Percentage of Women farmer operators, 2002, 2007 and 2012, MS
Appendix 1 B. Percentage of African American farmer operators, 2002, 2007 and 2012, MS
Appendix 2 Mississippi, Resource Concerns for EQIP, 2017
Appendix 3 Results of farmer surveys
7
Introduction
Agricultural production in the United States plays a unique role as the continual flow of
affordable, safe, and dependable food supply is a security and social imperative for the United
States (USDHS, 2010). The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the chief entity
responsible for ensuring an ample and affordable supply of food for the country, and it is in
charge of promoting agricultural production, innovating rural development, and preserving
natural resources (USDA, 2013). Agricultural production in the United States is subsidized
through support and safety net programs in the farm bill (Johnson & Monke, 2017). Through
farm bill programs, the U.S. government seeks to boost agricultural production, improve rural
development, enhance nutrition, and balance the stock of natural resources in the context of
growing demands for agricultural goods. The USDA organizational structure consist of twenty-
nine agencies with federal and state presence, responsible for specific functions within the major
goals of USDA. Among these agencies and functional work, this research project focuses on the
Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the implementation of conservation
programs among Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers (SDFR) in Mississippi.
In this context however, USDA has been the source of several claims of discrimination.
Recently, the agency has attempted to repair past situations of discrimination by making its
workforce more diverse and transforming the scope of their programs in order to reach out
participants in the agricultural industry that were systematically excluded in the past (Leonard,
2011). Despite these efforts, data show that agricultural production remains an industry
populated and dominated by white men. In this context, only comprising a minor sector in the
industry, non-white and women operators have, on average, smaller farms, smaller farm
incomes, and smaller amounts of government payments and loans than white males (USDA,
2014a) (Tables 1 & 2).
There is evidence about the history of discrimination at USDA. As means to address this issue,
Congress authorized the creation of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights and the
position of the Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights (USGAO, 2012). While the creation of the
office alleviated some issues immediately, USDA has had slow progress at times on remedying
minority underrepresentation in program enrollment since the creation of the Outreach and
Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (OASDVFR)
8
in 1990 (USGAO, 2008; USGAO, 2012; Rural Coalition, 2015). Aware of this situation, the U.S.
Congress and USDA have hypothesized that the reason that there are not more minority, female,
and young farmers is a lack of financial resources (USDA, 2014a). Hence, in the Agricultural
Act of 2014 there were numerous funding streams and programmatic opportunities specifically
earmarked for socially disadvantaged producers.
While there are now funding streams available for socially disadvantaged farmers, there is little
or no research on minority groups and women’s experiences on accessing these funds and
programs through the preexisting (and historically problematic) USDA programmatic and
funding processes. In order to deeply inquire into accessing experiences, this research project has
focused on understanding the policies for agricultural promotion available for SDFR at the
NRCS and the perspectives and experiences regarding access to funding among different groups
of socially disadvantaged producers in Mississippi. This report aims to present the results of the
research project “Accessing Government Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers”
funded by the Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center at Alcorn
State University and conducted by researchers from Mississippi State University. The main goal
of the project is to examine socially disadvantaged farmers’ perspectives and experiences when
negotiating the process of applying for USDA-NRCS; through this research this project will
provide valuable information on what variables can explain success in securing government
funding for agriculture from the socially disadvantaged farmers’ viewpoint. The report is
structured as follows: the first section details the methods and data; the second presents the
discussion of the results of the policy analysis and focus groups; the third is a conclusion section;
and the fourth presents recommendations based on the research findings.
9
Table 1. United States. Farms with Women Principal Operators Compared with All Farms 2007 and 2012
Number of Farms
Average Size of Farm
Government Payments
(Average Per Farm)
Women
Principal
Operators
All Farms
Women
Principal
Operators
All Farms
Women
Principal
Operators
All Farms
Women
Principal
Operators
All Farms
2012
Census
288,264
2,109,303
62,672,816
acres
914,527,657
acres
217 acres
434 acres
$6,329
$9,925
2007
Census
306,209
2,204,792
64,264,566
acres
922,095,840
acres
210 acres
418 acres
$5,877
$9,523
Source: US Census of Agriculture, 2007 and 2012.
Table 2. United States. Farms with Black or African American Operators Compared with All Farms 2007 and 2012
Number of Farms
Land in Farms
Average Size of Farm
Government Payments
(Average Per Farm)
Black or
African
American
Operators
All Farms
Black or
African
American
Operators
All Farms
Black or
African
American
Operators
All Farms
Black or
African
American
Operators
All Farms
2012
Census
36,382
2,109,303
4,563,805
acres
914,527,657
acres
125 acres
434 acres
$5,509
$9,925
2007
Census
32,938
2,204,792
3,826,403
acres
922,095,840
acres
116 acres
418 acres
$4,948
$9,523
Source: US Census of Agriculture, 2007 and 2012.
10
Methods
This is a qualitative study that uses two types of research strategies: focus group and policy
analysis. The policy analysis investigates NRCS conservation funding policies and programs
available for socially disadvantaged and limited resource farmers (SDFR); this analysis starts by
understanding the policy formation at the federal level, and its implementation at the state and
county levels in Mississippi, where funding decisions take place. The second critical piece of this
research is the focus group work with SDFR; this research strategy aims to investigate the
perspectives and experiences among different groups of socially disadvantaged producers in
Mississippi regarding access to USDA-NRCS funding.
Policy Analysis
The policy analysis aims to explain policies from their formation to the implementation, seeking
to understand the nature of the relationship between actors and resources, levels of influence and
avenues for implementation (Nagel, 1999). The nature of policy analysis is both descriptive and
analytical, consisting of the content analysis of the policy document (regulations, legislations),
the stakeholders involved in the implementation, their levels of influence in the implementation,
and understanding the policy outcomes. Specifically, the policy analysis component of this
research project seeks to understand what elements in the process policy may yield success or
failure in accessing NRCS funding. The policy analysis seeks to respond to these questions: 1)
Are there pieces of the regulation that in and of itself constitute a barrier to access NRCS
funding? and, 2) Although the programs exist, are there problems at the implementation level
than can be addressed in order to enhance the participation of socially disadvantaged farmers and
ranchers in conservation programs? The policy analysis is the result of an in-depth study of
USDA and USDA-NRCS policies and regulations, its organizational structure and how the
interconnection of these elements impact access to funding by socially disadvantaged produces
in Mississippi.
Focus Groups
Under this project, the research team conducted eleven focus groups with three sets of socially
disadvantaged producers who are actively farming: minority, women, and limited resource (these
categories overlap within the groups). The participants can be placed in three different groups:
members of a preexisting regional food hub, a loosely connected preexisting agriculture group,
11
and individuals with no formal group ties. A total of 95 socially disadvantaged producers have
participated in the focus groups (N=95). For this study, we recruited “active producers”, those
were defined as anyone who at the time of recruitment annually sells at least $100 of agricultural
products. Focus groups were conducted in six out of the eight Mississippi economic regions
1
and
with members of a preexisting regional food hub, loosely connected preexisting agriculture
groups, formal agricultural organizations, and individuals with no formal group ties. Through
stakeholder organizations and other outreach efforts, a broad group of individuals were invited to
participate.
In addition to the focus groups, we have also conducted five formative interviews. Interviewees
are part of a farming organizations and NRCS. We will use these interviews as a context piece to
supplement our understanding of barriers for socially disadvantaged farmers accessing NRCS
funding, however, we did not code these interviews. We considered those formative interviews.
Participants were briefed on the purpose of the research project and responded to a series of
questions about why they farm, what resources they use, their knowledge of USDA programs,
and their experiences applying for USDA-NRCS programs. Each focus group session was audio
recorded and later transcribed. All quotes used within this report denote the group name and
transcription line in MAXQDA that corresponds with the comment. To better protect the
participants’ privacy, any identifying information was removed from the quotes. All comments
were left in their entirety when possible in respect of our participants; however, extremely
lengthy comments were shortened for readability and clarity. Abbreviated comments are
denoted with ellipses. Additionally, participants’ statements may contain repeated words or
grammatical errors as participants’ comments were transcribed without any editing of
grammatical changes.
All data was coded in MAXQDA Plus 12.3.1. The coder read each document multiple times and
then coded each transcript on three levels. At the completion of the coding, analysis, and
interpretation process, all emergent observations and themes were recorded in this report in the
results and discussion.
1
As designated by the Mississippi Regional Economic Analysis Project, the eight Mississippi economic regions are:
Northwest, Northeast, Delta, East Central, Capital, Southwest, Pine Belt and Coast (Momentum Mississippi Map,
2017).
12
Results and Discussion
I. Policy Analysis
There is evidence that indicate the existence of disparities in access to government funding for
agriculture (USDA, 2014a), for the purposes of this study we are investigating these disparities
in the case of socially disadvantaged producers in Mississippi accessing USDA-NRCS funding.
This section presents the results of the policy analysis highlighting NRCS organizational
structure, types and scope of programs, and guidelines and rules for program application would
potentially affect socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
1. Federal Policies
The Farm Bill
Agricultural production in the United States is subsidized through support and safety net
programs in the farm bill. The farm bill is the most important and comprehensive instrument of
agriculture and food policy. It is passed by Congress every five years and it is implemented by
USDA and its agencies. The current farm bill or Agricultural Act of 2014 and will stay in place
until 2018. The total outlays are $489 billion distributed as follows: nutrition, 80 percent;
conservation, 6 percent; crop insurance, 8 percent; commodities, 5 percent; and others, 1 percent
(USDA & ERS, 2017). However, the process of creating food and agricultural policy through an
omnibus bill every five years involves tension between commonly held societal objectives
concerning the economy, the environment, individual and collective nutritional health, poverty
alleviation, and governance (Johnson & Monke, 2017; Wilde, 2013). For the Agriculture Act of
2014, representatives and senators voraciously debated numerous issues in the eleven titles (plus
title XII - Miscellaneous) of the bill, and altered various major provisions from the previous 2008
farm bill.
Title XII of the Agricultural Act of 2014 includes different provisions for socially disadvantaged
and limited resource producers. Some of the provisions include: Beginning Farmer or Rancher
Access to Crop Insurance, Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Microloans to
Beginning Farmers and Ranchers, Expanded Opportunities for Value-Added Agricultural
Producers, the Conservation Loan and Loan Guarantee Program, Facilitate Land Transfers
13
through the Conservation Reserve Program Transition Incentives Program (USDA & ERS,
2016).
Also, Title II of the farm bill focuses on conservation programs. First included in the Food
Security Act of 1985 (the 1985 farm bill), conservation programs now comprise an important
part of the farm bill spending (Stubbs, 2016). The USDA’s original conservation programs
focused on soil erosion and water quality/quantity issues whereas the current farm bill includes
conservation provisions for air quality, wetlands restoration and protection, energy efficiency,
wildlife habitat, and sustainable agriculture (Stubbs, 2016). Today, the NRCS administers the
vast majority of USDA’s conservation programs.
USDA Strategic Plan 2014 2018
The provisions of the current farm bill are effective between 2014 and 2018. Accordingly,
USDA developed a strategic plan for the same period of time. It consists of five strategic goals
that focus on: 1) assisting rural communities to create prosperity and self-sustainability; 2)
conservation of national forest and private working lands and improvement of water resources;
3) promoting agricultural production and biotechnology while increasing food security; 4)
guaranteeing children’s access to safe and healthy foods; and 5) improving performance,
efficiency and adaptability of the agency (USDA, 2013). Within these, the strategic goal 1,
“Assist rural communities to create prosperity so they are self-sustaining, repopulating, and
economically thriving” (figure 1) addresses some issues pertaining to the inclusion of socially
disadvantaged farmers and limited resource producers into the agricultural production. One of
USDA goals regarding this group of producers is to increase the number of beginning, racial and
ethnic minority and women farmers financed by USDA, as limited funding has been considered
one of the major concerns when it comes to participation in farming from this sector of the
14
population.
Figure 1. USDA Strategic Plan, FY2014 2018; strategic goal and objectives pertaining SDFR.
(USDA, 2013, p. 5)
Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)
NRCS provides farmers and ranchers with financial and technical assistance to voluntarily
implement on the ground conservation practices. Like other USDA agencies, NRCS is
decentralized. Program priorities are decided at a national level and fashioned into a strategic
plan; however, the majority of administrative and programmatic funding decisions are made at
the regional or state level (Stubbs, 2010). At USDA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., the
Chief Conservationist acts as the director of NRCS and oversees four Regional Conservationists
(USDA, 2013) (figure 2). Each state, in turn, has their own State Conservationist who reports
directly to their Regional Conservationists. The State Conservationist serves as the chief
administrative officer within each state and supervises each county’s Area Conservationist and
the sub-state regional District Conservationists (Jackson Lewis LLP, 2011).
Strategic Goal 1: Assist rural communities to create
prosperity so they are self-sustaining, repopulating,
and economically thriving”
Objective 1.1: "Enhance rural prosperity,
including leveraging capital markets to
increase government's investment in rural
America"
Objective 1.2: "Increase agricultural
opportunities by ensuring a robust safety
net, creating new markets, and supporting
a competitive agricultural system"
i.e., Indicators for SDFR: Percentage of
beginning, racial and ethnic minority, and
women farmers financed by USDA
2012; 36%; 2018: 41%
Objective 1.3: "Contribute to the expansion
of he Bioeconomy by supporting
development, production, and
consumption of renewable energy and
biobased products
15
Figure 2. NRCS Organizational Chart.
(NRCS, 2013, p. 4)
Civil Rights at the NRCS
The USDA established a contract with the Jackson Lewis LLP Corporate Diversity Counseling
Group (2011) to conduct a comprehensive review of the USDA’s Delivery of Technical and
Financial Assistance to all Americans and its handling of civil rights matters. The assessment
focused on the USDA’s effectiveness at ensuring its policies reached a diverse population and
made recommendations on how to improve problem areas. The group interviewed USDA
employees, conducted a number of focus groups, and attended various meetings and conferences
held by USDA agencies to collect data for the civil rights assessment. In their final report, the
group listed ten areas for departmental change with recommendations on how best to increase
diversity, inclusion, and accessibility (DIA). One of the most striking items noted in the report is
USDA employees’ lack of awareness of both the existence of discriminatory practices and the
severity of inequitable treatment of SDFR. In fact, the research found that many of the
discriminatory practices can often be identified as unintentional. Therefore, the report suggests
16
that perhaps this is why civil rights violations had gone unchecked for so long and can be
corrected in part by emphasizing a focus on diversity and inclusion outreach rather than giving
outreach titles such as civil rights, which can carry a negative connotation. Thus, USDA’s efforts
to address the recommendations must be substantial and must occur at the organizational and
program implementation levels.
Specifically, the Jackson Lewis assessment found that some of the key barriers to achieve equity
is the disconnect between SDFRs and the county committee system, members who are often
regarded by SDFRs as untrained, discriminatory, and in some cases hostile towards SDFR
outreach. Lack of diversity in these committees contributes to this disconnect and inadequate
visibility. The application process to obtain funding by this group of producers is considered
complex which can be crippling for the goal of achieving equity when members of the
committee are not making an effort to assist with the complex process. To address these various
problems, the report identifies a number of recommended practices for the Farm Service Agency
to implement including aggressive marketing outreach aimed at SDFR communities, periodic
analyses of diversity in Farm Loan Guaranteed Loan program, modification of county committee
system and internal offices, and ultimately to simplify loans and farm program applications to be
SDFR user-friendly.
According to the aforementioned report, at NRCS the application process tends to favor larger
producers which leaves out SDFR who make up the majority of smaller producers. SDFRs lack
sufficient information about the application process and the guidelines are often inconsistent with
Native American customers. Minorities and females are under-represented in field offices
ranging from the local to state level offices which can create bias because these committees
determine what applicants qualify for in terms of assistance (Jackson Lewis LLP, 2011). To
avoid discrimination, the report recommended that a separate conservation program exist to meet
the needs of SDFR and that this program funds applications continuously, providing guidance
and reasoning when an application is rejected. Diversity and inclusion should also remain at the
top of the NRCS’s priority by creating the position of Chief Diversity Officer, implementing
programs specifically aimed for Native American producers, and adopting substantial measures
for reviewing internal diversity.
17
According to the report, NRCS programs showed consistent obstacles that must be addressed if
equitable delivery of services is to be achieved. Lack of outreach to SDFRs and SDFRs lack of
access to information on how to navigate the complex application processes appeared
consistently throughout the assessment. Additionally, bias within the organization due to lack of
diversity and previously held bias dominated each program. The report concluded that although
many of the policies and practices found in farm bills and USDA regulations are not
discriminatory on their face, when applied by local and state committees it permits discretion
that results in unfair treatment towards SDFR. Minorities and females are also disproportionately
underrepresented in the USDA workforce which contributes to inequitable decision making.
Finally, the report identified a number of problems associated with the discrimination complaint
system in cases of program discrimination and workplace discrimination. The complaint process
was found to be overly complicated and rarely ever found evidence of discrimination. To fix this,
the report recommended a wholesale simplification of the process and more resources allocated
to reviewing these complaints.
NRCS Strategic Plan FY 2016-2018
As mentioned above, NRCS program priorities are decided at a national level and fashioned into
a strategic plan. NRCS strategic plan for FY 2016-2018 contains four strategic goals (related to
the organization’s mission) and two management initiatives. The management initiative 2:
“Create a Climate of Inclusion and Foster Diversity So Private Lands Conservation Will Thrive”
includes two critical objectives related to civil rights: Expand opportunities to deliver
conservation products and services to new and underserved customers (Title VI), and “Employ,
develop, and retain a highly skilled and diverse workforce (Title VII) (NRCS, 2015b).
Strategic initiatives are detailed in Figure 3. The fact that civil rights related initiatives are
depicted in the management initiatives indicates the need of a structural transformation within
the organization as means to address issues of potential discrimination. In some fashion, the
organizational NRCS strategies are addressing the recommendations of the Jackson Lewis report
in the sense that discriminatory practices can often be identified as unintentional and occur as
part of the organizational practices and culture.
18
Figure 3. NRCS Strategic Plan, FY2016 2018; objectives and strategic initiatives pertaining SDFR
(NRCS, 2015b, p. 12, 13)
2. State- Level Programs
NRCS has field offices in most counties across the United States. Briefly, this is how the
application process occurs: to apply for a NRCS program (other than Conservation Reserve
Program, which is managed by the Farm Service Agency), land owners contact their area
conservationist and inform her or him about their interest in implementing conservation practices
on their land (USDA, 2015a). The land owner then meets with the area conservationist, files the
respective paperwork, and the area conservationist then informs the land owner of her or his
options regarding funding, programs, and a timeline (USDA, 2015a). Applications are accepted
at any time during the year; however, funding decisions are made according to local deadlines
(USDA, 2016). Local area conservationists then score and rank applications before submitting
them to the state conservationist for approval.
Despite the agency efforts to increase participation of minorities in farming and conservation
practices on average, African American and women participation in the agricultural industry is
still small (USDA, 2014). In Mississippi, participation of African Americans in farming does not
Objective 2.1.
Expand
opportunities to
deliver
conservation
products and
services to new
and underserved
customers
1) Identify and address barriers that limit program participation;
2) Ensure that customers are treated in accordance with USDA’s civil rights policy and
applicable legal requirements;
3) Develop outreach strategies to reach traditionally underserved stakeholders and
partners;
4) Promote programmatic efforts, such as Strike Force, to address conservation needs in
economically distressed areas;
5) Develop and implement a strategic comprehensive communication plan;
6) Ensure civil rights are protected and responsibilities and duties comply with Title VI in
program delivery.
Objective 2.2.
Employ, develop,
and retain a
highly skilled and
diverse
workforce
1) Develop and deploy agency recruitment and employee development strategies;
2) Target focused recruitment efforts toward underrepresented populations including
women, minorities, people with disabilities, and veterans;
3) Ensure civil rights are protected and employees comply with Title VII;
4) Ensure that employees are treated in accordance with USDA’s civil rights policy and
applicable legal requirements.
19
exceed 43 percent, even if those counties have a higher population of African Americans. As for
representation of women in agriculture in Mississippi, the counties with larger participation of
women do not have more than 37 percent of women farmers. Appendix 1 illustrates county
participation of African Americans and women in farming comparing the years 2002, 2007 and
2012.
NRCS Programs available in MS
NRCS offers two types of programs, financial assistance and easement programs. Through its
financial assistance programs, NRCS provides financial and technical assistance to voluntarily
engage eligible landowners and agricultural producers into sustainable natural resources
management practices. The mechanism to implement these programs is through contracts that
provide financial assistance to support planning and implementation of conservation practices on
agricultural lands and non-industrial private forest land. Financial assistance programs are
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Innovation Grant Program
(CIG), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program
(WHIP) (NRCS, 2014a). On the other hand, easement programs aim at maintaining or enhancing
private lands in a manner that is favorable to agriculture and/or the environment. NRCS provides
technical and financial support, but ultimately, landowners are responsible program’s success.
Current easement programs include Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), and
Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP). The next section will briefly describe these programs.
Financial Assistance Programs
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
Through voluntary participation, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides
agricultural producers with financial and technical assistance to address natural resource
concerns due to agricultural activity with the ultimate goal of improving water and air quality,
preserve ground and surface water, reduce soil erosion and sedimentation and improve or create
wildlife habitat (NRCS, 2014). In the 2014 farm bill, EQIP was authorized $8 billion over the 5-
year the FY2014-2018 period (table 2) (Commodity Credit Corporation, 2016). EQIP functions
as a cost-share program for farmers to invest in conservation practices by paying a portion of the
cost of constructing and/or installing conservation practices on their land (USDA, 2014b).
20
Applications are grouped into funding categories by crop type, livestock, or forestry; 60 percent
of all EQIP funds are designated for livestock producers (Stubbs, 2016). Normally, USDA pays
75 percent of the projected cost; however, the percentage is higher for limited resource,
beginning, or socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers (Stubbs 2016; USDA, 2014).
Table 3. Annual Budget Allocation for EQIP, FY 2014-2018
Year
Amount ($)
2014
$1.35 billion
2015
$1.60 billion
2016
$1.65 billion
2017
$1.65 billion
2018
$1.75 billion
Source: Commodity Credit Corporation, 2016, p. 29481
Like other NRCS programs, EQIP has a list of nationally designated priorities and programs are
funded according to application rank correspondent to the national and/or state priorities.
Historically, EQIP applicants are routinely denied due to a backlog in application processing
(Stubbs, 2010). Mississippi regularly ranks in the top ten states with unfunded applications; in
fiscal year 2014 (the most recent available), 37,207 contracts were awarded and Mississippi
ranked third in unfunded applications (4,113) behind Arkansas (5,533) and Oklahoma (4,255)
(Stubbs, 2016). USDA does not provide backlog numbersonly unfunded application data.
EQIP budget for the state of Mississippi between 2009 and 2016 is detailed in table 4:
Table 4. EQIP Mississippi and Total Obligations, by Fiscal Year
(In thousands of dollars)
Division
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
Mississipp
i
$15,723.3
$23,438.8
$33,707.1
$32,975.5
$42,674.1
$35,969.0
$43,766.4
$49,580.4
Total
$1,054,581.
6
$1,184,252.
2
$1,244,659.
4
$1,382,561.
5
$1,391,162.
0
$1,313,933.
5
$1,248,419.
0
$1,454,100.
8
Source: NRCS, 2017b
To be eligible for EQIP, agricultural producers and owners of industrial private forestland and
tribes must control or own eligible land
2
, comply with adjusted gross income imitation (AGI)
provisions, be in compliance with the highly erodible land and wetland conservation
2
Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pastureland, non-industrial private forestland and other farm or ranch
lands
21
requirements, and develop a NRCS EQIP plan of operations. When it comes to rank applications
those are ranked based on how well applications meet county conservation and environmental
goals when compared with other applicants (Miller, 2017). It seems to be a process that can be
perceived by farmers as one that lacks of transparency due to the very few pieces of information
available to determine funding allocation. However, some information that can provide some
insight about conservation priorities is the county resource concerns by water quality, water
quantity, forestry, wildlife and grazing. Maps in Appendix 2 show the resource concerns
priorities per county (NCRS, 2017a).
Conservation Innovation Grant Program (CIG)
The goal of Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) is to steer public and private sector
innovation in resource conservation. This competitive grant program was first authorized by the
2002 farm bill, and it uses EQIP funds to award competitive grants to non-Federal governmental
or nongovernmental organizations, American Indian Tribes, or individuals. “Through the NRCS
CIG program, public and private grantees develop the tools, technologies, and strategies to
support next-generation conservation efforts on working lands and develop market-based
solutions to resource challenges.” (NRCS, 2017b) Considering the importance of including
socially disadvantaged groups into the farming industry, NRCS dedicates 10 percent of CIG
funding to support historically underserved, new and beginning, and military veteran producers
in farming and ranching.
Under the 2017 CIG Historically Underserved Awards, Mississippi received two awards: “Smart
Microbiology Agricultural Innovations Research Project” and “Educating Small and
Disadvantaged Farmers on the Importance of Soil Health for Sustainable Crop Production”.
Smart Microbiology Agricultural Innovations Research Project submitted by New South
Development and Training, LLC, was awarded $800,000 to “evaluate the beneficial use of
municipal solids for crop farming by historically underserved producers. Sharply escalating
production costs have producers looking for alternatives to commercial fertilizers, a demand that
could potentially be met by municipal solids” (NRCS, 2017c). The Winston County Self Help
Cooperative (WCSHC) was awarded $474,000 to implement the project Educating Small and
Disadvantaged Farmers on the Importance of Soil Health for Sustainable Crop Production; the
project goal is to “educate small, limited-resource and disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in six
22
Mississippi counties on how to obtain access to information, hands-on training exercises,
mentoring and other outreach activities that will enhance their agricultural enterprises (NRCS,
2017b).
Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
The purpose of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is to provide financial and
technical assistance to promote conservation and improvement practices of soil, water, air,
energy and plant and animal life on tribal and private working lands. The program is
implemented through contracts that are based on meeting or exceeding a stewardship threshold.
“Payments are based on the actual costs of installing conservation measures, any foregone
income, and the value of the expected environmental outcomes” (Stubbs, 2016, p. 12).
Enrollment is offered through a continuous sign-up and applications are accepted year-round,
participation is voluntary. Previous experience implementing conservation and improvement
practices can help in the application process because funding from CSP would be building up
those practices (NRCS, 2017d).
For Mississippi, the CSP has established four geographical regions determined around resource
concerns (table 4). Applications are ranked and approved based on the regional priorities and
available funding.
Table 5. Mississippi, Geographical Regions and Priority Resource Concerns for CSP Application, 2017
Geographical
Region
Air Quality
Impacts
Fish and
Wildlife
Inadequate
Habitat
Soil Quality
Degradation
Insufficient
Water
Water Quality
Degradation
Delta Region
X
X
X
X
X
Northeast Hills
Region
X
X
X
X
Central Hills
Region
X
X
X
X
South Hills
Region
X
X
X
X
Delta Region
X
X
X
X
X
Northeast Hills
Region
X
X
X
X
Source: NRCS, 2017
CSP budget obligations for the state of Mississippi between 2009 and 2016 are detailed in Table
6.
23
Table 6. CSP Mississippi and Total Obligations, by Fiscal Year
(In thousands of dollars)
Division
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
Mississipp
i
$179.2
$9,941.5
$15,260.5
$18,842.1
$22,526.9
$28,642.6
$33,276.4
$36,605.4
Total
$9,378.
2
$389,813.
0
$577,803.
7
$741,619.
9
$882,547.
8
$1,030,870.
7
$1,095,878.
8
$1,129,295.
4
Source: NRCS, 2017
Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP)
The 2014 farm bill repealed the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP). However, NRCS
still supports existing active WHIP contracts signed before passage of the Agricultural Act of
2014. Portions of the WHIP Statute were rolled into the Environmental Quality Incentives
Program (EQIP). Anyone still interested in applying for wildlife activities in their programs,
should inquire EQIP available funding for this purpose (NRCS, 2014b)
CSP budget obligations for the state of Mississippi between 2009 and 2016 are detailed in Table
7.
Table 7. WHIP Mississippi and Total Obligations, by Fiscal Year
(In thousands of dollars)
Division
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
Mississippi
$1,425.3
$3,730.6
$2,000.7
$1,592.8
$1,904.3
$266.0
$310.5
$111.6
Total
$72,742.9
$83,405.9
$83,872.0
$47,360.4
$63,679.3
$9,641.0
$14,393.0
$8,943.8
Source: NRCS, 2017
Easement Programs
Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) provides financial and technical
assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands and their related benefits. Under the
Agricultural Land Easements component, NRCS helps Indian tribes, state and local governments
and non-governmental organizations protect working agricultural lands and limit non-
agricultural uses of the land. Under the Wetland Reserve Easements component, NRCS helps to
restore, protect and enhance enrolled wetlands” (NCRS, 2017f).
24
Table 8. ACEP Mississippi and Total Obligations, by Fiscal Year
(In thousands of dollars)
Division
2014
2015
2016
Mississippi
$6,857.7
$3,875.6
$6,649.6
Total
$316,900.3
$297,347.8
$345,677.2
Source: NRCS, 2017
II. Analysis of Focus Groups with Farmers
1. Description of Participants
We conducted eleven focus groups, with the participation of ninety-five limited resource and
minority farmers (N=95). The participants are 72.6 percent male, and 27.4 percent female. 92.6
percent of the participants are black, 6.3 percent are white, and 1.1 percent are Native American.
We collected additional information about the participants through a post focus group self-
administered survey. We obtained results from eighty-four participants (survey N=84), results
are detailed in appendix 3. According to the survey results, age of the participants ranges from 21
to 80 years old, the majority of the participants fall into the 57-68 age range (39.3%), followed
by the 69-80 range (25.0%). 62.1 percent of the participants attended to college. In addition to
the demographic data, we obtained information about the role of agriculture in their lives. Out of
the total of survey participants, 79.8 percent own their agricultural land, 76.2 percent of their
parents farmed. To the question, what is the main agricultural crop that you produce, 37.6
percent responded vegetables, 16.5 percent cattle, 9.4 percent hay and trees, another 9.4 percent
corn and/or soybean, 7 percent small ruminants, 3 percent poultry and 8.2 reported mixed
production. Only 8 percent of the participants reported that farming as their primary occupation,
however 33 percent do not report any information about their occupation.
2. Coding Summary
As mentioned earlier, the focus group transcripts are rich with discussion on barriers to access of
government agricultural funding for socially disadvantaged farmers. As The completion of the
coding, analysis, and interpretation process, all emergent observations and themes were recorded
in this report. In sharing the farmers and producers’ voices, the aim is to detail their ideas on,
suggestions regarding, and opinions of barriers to USDA programs using their own words.
Direct quotes and summary themes are detailed below.
25
Theme 1. “…To Get to That Point”: Sustainability
At all of the focus groups, producers began by sharing the reasons why they farmed. In their
responses, they detailed a range of different reasons as diverse as the crops produced in
Mississippi. The most common responses were producers’ enjoyment of being a part of a family
tradition, appreciation of the independence and income farming offered as a full-time or part-
time effort, and the community and personal health benefits of farming. The answers given all
conveyed a general sense of pride and accomplishment. Unlike other careers or income
producing hobbies, these individuals shared that they were farmers not because they had to be,
but because they wanted to be.
When asked about their general experiences as farmers and producers, they frequently shared
how they felt somewhat misunderstood by the general non-farming population. One producer
summed it best: “Americans have plenty of food and it’s available to them whenever they want
and need, but they fail to appreciate, um, what it took to get it to that point.” (Group 10:41)
For their portion of the work within the process “to get to that point” on the table, the farmers
shared twin foci: being environmentally and financially sustainable.
They stressed that farming is replete with risks, namely those that are financial and natural.
Nature dictates the weather and the seasons, limiting and assisting producers at different times.
Producers shared that navigating the natural risks as well as pursing environmentally sustainable
practices takes effort. In an exchange about farmers and non-farmers, one man exclaimed,
“Well, I agree with him, saying basically, that the uh, non-farmer don’t really respect the
environment and the earth. I mean some of them do now but a big number do not. And, I think
all farmers really respect the environment and the earth ….” (Group 11:58). Their dialogue
summed up what many producers often never verbally stated, but their testimonials on other
issues revealed what they collectively accepted as fact--that farmers love the land, they live off
the land, and they take care of the landhowever, even with that relationship, nature is often
also volatile.
Navigating the unpredictability of nature for most producers meant first seeking to be financially
successful in their farming operations at all times since there is no guarantee that they will be
26
profitable in the future due to the changing seasons and weather patterns. Secondly, navigating
the irregularity of nature also meant that producers need to take the very best care of their land
because they have little to no control over major agricultural inputs (rain, temperature, etc.).
Pursuing opportunities for betterment of their land to accommodate for drought or flooding, cold
or heat stress, etc., places producers in better positions to overcome “bad crop[s]” (Group 2:129).
Equally important, this makes farmers better caretakers of natural resources.
Because financial stability was a chief concern, farmers shared that to continue farming and
pursuing environmentally sustainable improvements, they turned to USDA for assistance.
Discussing NRCS programs and conservation efforts, one farmed stated: “Well, the U.S.
Government helps us [with conservation efforts now], a lot of people don’t realize that that is a
very valuable asset to a farmers” (Group 7:25). At each focus group, farmers discussed this
“valuable asset” and how to minimize risks from nature while improving the environmental and
financial sustainability of their farming operations.
Theme 2. “So many things”: Chief Barriers
When specifically discussing the use of USDA-NRCS programs, producers shared mixed
experiences. A male producer shared that when farming and pursuing NRCS programs: “You
know, you are up against elements, you know, there are so many things that you are up against.”
(Group 9:48). While “the elements” he referenced is nature, the “so many things” comment
deserves more attention and exploration. The following sections detail the farmers’ discussion
on the key itemscommunication, transparency, and uniformitythat farmers considered
barriers to their access and use of USDA-NRCS programs.
“It’s just a lot of unawareness”: Lack of Communication
While USDA has a vast list of available programs for producers, almost all producers shared that
a chief barrier to using these programs was their lack of knowledge about them. One producer
summed:
“Um hmm, NRCS, yeah, I think it’s just a lot of unawareness of what is out there to these
rural minority communities probably because the population is just not aware that these
offices do these type programs or have these type cost share type programs, and I’ve
mentioned that to people about cost share assistance through NRCS, forestry commission
and reservation and they’re like oh they do that, they just don’t understand. I guess it’s
27
just a lack of marketing of what these agencies do out in the rural and minority
communities.” (Group 8:242).
Another producer echoed this thought, stating that he felt the lack of marketing was a problem
for both USDA and producers:
“….there’s a group of people that do not know about these programs, and so what is the
responsibility of USDA in terms of getting the information out um for people to know?
Our names are there we um could be on a mailing list if there such a newsletter or
mailing list or something going out but then there’s hundreds of other people out there
that’s not on any list and they don’t get to knowing unless we share by word of mouth too
so it seems that there is some responsibility for USDA in order to communicate because
these programs are for those people in agriculture production.” (Group 5:163)
While a few producers did appreciate USDA’s limited electronic or mail communication efforts,
their appreciation was minimal. In a discussion about USDA’s communication methods, a
producer shared the following exchange:
Producer: “But you know that, another thing, there are programs we don’t know about.
Interviewer: Okay-
Producer: USDA has other program out there, but they make, but when you read the
newsletter they tell them to read, but you read them and don’t see nothing pertaining to
what we need. So, most of it, just [go] and throw them in the garbage.” (Group 1:317)
Like others, this producer stressed that it’s hard to find “what we need” in USDA’s paper
communications, implying that they are very generic. Some participants also strongly lamented
the lack of paper communications within their county because they only receive electronic
communications. A producer shared:
“Well, see even that kind of information should be put out there because everybody don’t
have a computer, and everybody don’t use computers, and uh there are people out there
who just like myself. I would rather pick up a pamphlet and read it” (Group 11:183).
Additional farmers at other focus groups repeated him:
“…of course you know some of your more traditional older farmers, they’re probably not
as accustom to the technology, you know, probably become a little frustrated with
everything because it’s all technology based now, you know, because if you don’t have
some lever of computer technological training then it can be extremely frustrating….”
(Group 7:47)
Paper or electronic, producers collectively argued that without better communications, USDA is
not able to serve farmers well or equitably. Unless people are knowledgeable of the availability
of the programs, the current well-intended policies are useless for producers. For the focus
28
group participants, USDA’s inability to reach farmers with the information of the programs was
an initial hurdle.
“Everything here is hidden”: Lack of Transparency
Throughout each focus groups, producers recurrently expressed a concern with the lack of
transparency at USDA regarding the availability of programs, applying to programs, and the
approval of programs. Numerous producers specifically used the word “hidden” referring to
their experiences trying to learn about programs or applying to programs.
Availability of Programs
When discussing the difficulty of learning about programs when visiting a county office, one
producer exclaimed: “…it’s like it’s hidden unless you push the right button” (Group 10:112).
Similar to paper and electronic communications, producers shared that in-office intrapersonal
communications lacked clarity and transparency.
One focus group participant elaborated on how the availability of programs lacks transparency,
stating:
“I just don’t think the information is there, necessarily, unless you know what you’re
looking for that little, there’s a missing link there. It’s not that you go in, and they say
‘Well, we have a lot of programs available! What are you interested in?’ or ‘Let me see
what type of farm you have.’ Or, um, ‘Let me have the opportunity to go out to your farm
and see what we can help you with!’ I don’t necessarily see that.” (Group 3:266)
A female producer further shared that she believed you needed to be extremely direct to
overcome the lack of transparency:
“Some of the offices that I have been in like he was saying you have to have a direct
question. If you just going in there, and uh, and you wanting general information they
don’t really voluntarily give you anything. So unless you can be specific, you get the run
around. If you go in there almost with a list, and say ‘look I have already written this
down what can you help me with on this list?” you stand a little bit better of a chance.
But if you go in there saying, you know, ‘I am new. I interested, you know, I was
wondering what all programs you have available?’ they may tell you one, knowing all
along there is a list over here this long. Now I have sort of a problem with that and their
customer service skills.” (Group 11:94)
Likewise, one farmer recalled how he went into his local office and asked specific questions
about the availability of funding for certain programs. He wanted county specific information;
29
information only readily available in the county office. The producer shared his questions with
the focus group:
“I want to know how much our county gets for money for things for farms any kind of
subsidy anything. I want to know what they’re getting. I want to know where the
money’s going. I want to know why the farmers who need it are not getting it…. because
everything here is hidden.” (Group 4:237)
Answering him, another producer said:
“Yeah, you don’t know what you get. You might go in there, for look, I need to plant 10
acres of rye grass. He says, ‘oh we out of money.’ But, how much money did you have?
(Group 4:240)
Correspondingly, other farmers across the focus groups repeatedly shared their recurrent
disappointment in trying to work within the local office to learn about the availability of
programs, program deadlines, and program funding, only to feel more frustrated when they
finished than before they began. Hence, producers shared that now they often “don’t bother”
(Group 1:274) or have “given up” (Group 4:233) when trying to learn about programs in-office
because the information is just plain “hidden.”
Application Process
While numerous producers wanted information on how the funding process worked and what
programs were available, others mentioned transparency problems during the application
process. Describing the application process, one producer said:
“It was awful, it was intrusive, it was absolutely awful and to be treated as if, you know, I
don’t know. It’s just funny when you’re trying to get services from somebody and
somebody’s sitting behind a table who’s a farmer who knows the deal, right? These
people who sit behind the desks, they’re farmers—they own acreage, they own livestock
and they do this stuffso when you come in not knowing exactly what it is that you
need, well, they could easily bridge that for you, be like ‘this is what you’re talking
about, so then let me give you a picture of how this really works’ and then explain it to
you.” (Group 10:140)
This producer stressed that the individual in the office “knows the deal,” yet unfortunately failed
to help the producer make sense of it. Transparency in the process--the “picture of how it really
works” as the producer stated—is what the producers and farmers need. While some producers
shared that there was little to no transparency in the application process, others stated that things
were clear only to a point. One farmer explains this:
30
“Well, I’m currently in the process of um trying to work through the process, and I know
in the end it’s probably rewarding, but you do run into some barriers sometimes, um,
some difficulties. Um, I guess you might say meeting their requirements, um, it’s, you
can run into some barriers, and I guess you would like to see the um programs be more
user friendly for the limited resource farmers. Often times those barriers that you meet in
those requirements, you either don’t have enough or you got too much or you don’t have
this or you don’t have that or you need to be at .5 and we’re at .1, and you can’t get to .5
until you complete .1, .2, .3, and .4. So, there’s a gap there, but you know some of them
are not as user friendly for limited resource farmers as they need to be (Group 10:71)
As he explains, the process of completing 1, 2, 3, and 4 to get to 5 is often arduous. And
completing those steps is sometimes difficult because the process of how to navigate and
complete steps 1 through 4 to get to 5 is often unclear. Even when asking specific questions,
farmers shared that they felt they were given unintelligible or non-answers about navigating the
application steps. This lack of transparency about the process serves to discourage producers
over time. A female producer described her frustrations:
“Um, we went in for one service and it was like we were dragged through the mud for 3
months, but we don’t have that kind of time to go in and out of an office. Um, we have
crops we have harvesting, planting. There’s so much to do, and to waste 3 months of
your time when that person knows from the beginning what you need to accomplish and
fulfill that application to get your request. Um, we felt like we were dragged through the
mud for 3 months.” (Group 10:137)
The focus group participants frequently stressed that they were not sure exactly how the process
worked. They often wanted more information on how the funding and application process
functioned, but when they asked questions, they still felt everything was “hidden.” Similar to
producers who became discouraged when trying to gain answers about available programs,
producers shared that they sometimes quit during the application process because hiddenness
made it not worth “fooling with it” (Group 4:142).
Approval Process
Sharing his frustration with the approval process and the lack of transparency in the ranking
process, one man stated that the employees specifically do “hidden type things” (Group 1:217)
when they fail to share with producers how the ranking process works and how to increase their
rankings. The majority of other producers at the focus groups agreed. The approval process was
murky at best and infuriating at its worst.
31
At one focus group, when the interviewer asked for the participants to share about the process of
working toward an application approval with the local office, a farmer laughed and replied, “Can
you help us understand why?” The producers largely were unaware of why their applications
were not approved or how they were ranked within their county. One farmer described the
frustration: “And they got a point system. If you a vet, you get so many points. Or, if you a first
time farmer, so I don’t know exactly how, I don’t know who else apply, but when I apply--why I
didn’t get it, I don’t know” (Group 7:206).
Others also disclosed that they did not understand the points system. For example, one man
shared, “I have got practice for NRCS. And, I have been turned down. I have been turned down
for more practices than I got. Mostly because I didn’t have enough points, they say, but, overall,
I guess its all right, but I could be better” (Group 9:89). Though he phrased it politely—“enough
points, they say”—this producers comments, like others’, highlights that he is unfamiliar with
why his application was denied. He also, consequently, has no knowledge of how to better his
application for future rounds of programs.
“Every office is different”: Lack of Uniformity – Lack of clear processes
In addition to communication and transparency being central barriers, producers also articulated
that the lack of uniformity amongst USDA offices and program offerings across counties was
frustrating. Because the communications from USDA are limited and the program information,
program application, and program approval process is not transparent, local offices operate with
a great deal of autonomyfor better or for worse when it comes to the experiences of socially
disadvantaged farmers and producers. The focus group participants spent a lengthy amount of
time discussing the variances between county offices and offerings. One farmer shared:
“I would clone the process and the people in the office [laughs] so it would be the same.
Every office is different, um, you know. I’ve been blessed.…and [in] other offices,
people have told horror stories… [so I’d make changes] so that every office would be the
same and they know how to treat people, the procedure, all procedures are the same
information, if that were possible.” (Group 5:217)
Uniformity across offices and program offerings, they stressed, would help with communication
and transparency issues. Nevertheless, several producers did not have high hopes that it would
change the longevity of what they perceived as the dysfunction between federal policy and local
dissemination of resources:
32
“Well, for all federal program—that’s the way it is. It’s great at the federal level, and I’m
sure even at the state level, but when it gets out in the fieldit never gets carried out.
You know, it worked its ways back in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and in a way it’s still
happening today to a large degree.” (Group 10:170)
Numerous focus group participants tactfully acknowledged that when considering the vast
differences in experiences between county offices, they were often unsure if their office was
staffed with “lazy workers” who “just purely don’t know” (Group 7:254) or individuals
discriminating against them due to their gender and/or race. Racial discrimination is what the
famer initially quoted at the beginning of this section implied when he stated that he had heard
“horror stories” and the latter quote about “it’s still happening.”
Some farmers firmly argued that the variance in socially disadvantaged farmers and producers’
experiences in the local offices was due to the personnel makeup of the office and their
autonomy. The producer stated: “Well, obviously, that’s why minority and women are
underserved because the people behind the desk would rather not give us the services. (Group
10:116). Others, were less overt in their arguments, but just as firm. When asked about the
differences between offices and if he thought discrimination occurred or occurs in some of them,
one older producer shared:
“…I that, um, just can’t answer it. I tell you what—if I could change back the hand of
time, I’ll let you be black for a year. And then I’ll be white, and see where I get and
where you get. Because, okay, you lived the white life. I live the black life for a long
time. Just let me be white for about a year, and you be black for a year, and you walk in
my shoes and then you will see the true picture. Like who you work for NRCS you walk
in there and you, a black woman, says ‘Yes ma’am, I would like apply for this.’ Well,
they are going to say, “Well, uh, sorry I can’t help you.’ Now knowing that I come in
therea white male—‘uh, yes I would like to apply for a well, uh, I have been
registered.’ [They would reply,] ‘Oh yeah, we see you registered. Uh, here is a list of the
wells you call us, and I’ll get on this list.’ And they will say ‘Yeah, sir, uh, you have been
approved for a well.’ Come out, and they drill you a well. Now, you, you were white, but
you black now. You are doing the same thing I am doing! Come in there and [you] say,
‘Yes, I would like to get a well.’ [They’d reply], ‘Are you registered?’ [You’d reply,]
‘Yes I am.’ [They’d then say,] ‘Well we don’t have no money for a well right now, uh,
we can put you on the list.’ You don’t hear from nothing! But then I get a well. How
would that make you feel? So I mean I can’t change the hands of time—it is what it
is….” (Group 2:167)
Others merely summed that because of the lack of communication, transparency, and uniformity
in procedures, the amount of successful interaction and program approval for a socially
33
disadvantaged farmer or producer was dependent on “the personality of that office” (Group
5:159). Though producers’ bluntness in discussions on racial discrimination varied, none of the
focus groups had any discussions that disagreed with the perspective that racial discrimination
within the USDA-NRCS offices exists. Conversations on the topic of racial discrimination
during the focus groups would drift until they reached either suggestions for improvement
namely, making the policies, procedures, programs offered, and practices of each UDSA office
uniformor stories of success in circumventing barriers.
Theme 3. “The Grapevine”: Success in Navigating Barriers
Although the focus group participants talked at length about the barriers to accessing and using
USDA-NRCS programs, farmers who had acquired USDA funding in the past discussed how
they navigated the existing barriers with other producers. They provided a vast range of
answersfrom spirituality to their educationas reasons for their success in acquiring USDA-
NRCS funding. This section details the two most common answersinformal networks and
agricultural organizations—which one farmer collectively termed his “grapevine” (Group 9:70).
“The main resource is other experienced farmers”: Informal Network Sharing
When producers were asked what resources they used the most to help them be successful, they
often talked about their fellow farmers. For instance, one man stated, “Well, the main resource is
other experienced farmers. I talk to everybody you know about this and that, so you can inquire a
lot of information just by talking and listening to people” (Group 11:47). Another farmer echoed
him: “So it’s [relationships] a good resource, you learn from each other. It really helps you to
become better farmers and help each other” (Group 4:67).
In contrast to their characterizations of the NRCS staff and office members as doing “hidden”
things that did not help them, producers often shared that other socially disadvantaged farmers
were the best help to learn about programs and understand how to apply for them. One farming
couple shared that they learned, “by word of mouth, it’s you know, it’s such a small tight knit
community that it works well, it really does that. If you ask someone, they’ll typically point you
in the right direction.” (Group 6:119). They later continued saying that they had not participated
34
in any USDA programs, but planned to contact farmers that had successfully landed conservation
programs:
“…call them up, talk to them, go see what practices they implement the bottom line is
there are a lot of practices out there and you need to understand what they are because it’s
a national program so you say somebody got this somebody got that and then when you
go into the office you can ask about all those thing and you can say okay based on that
discussion here are the things we want to possibly apply for so you’re ahead of the game
but I would say start go visit them go see what practices they implement….” (Group
6:173)
Informal networks not only provided knowledge about what programs were available and how to
navigate that process, but also knowledge of the local situation, the “personalities” of the office
as other farmers termed it. Additionally, informal networks provide encouragement and support.
Farmers frequently communicated how their informal networks taught them not only how to do
things, but also how not to do things. Because of other producers’ willingness to share their
success stories and their failures, the informal networks are built around trust and cooperation.
Mutual encouragement blossoms out of both, further bolstering the relationships and information
sharing.
“A tremendous help…they keep me informed”: Formal Agricultural Organizations
Akin to informal networks, formal agricultural organizations fostered information sharing and
encouragement. One producer characterized the groups as “a tremendous help to me….they
keep me informed about what’s available, you know, through different, uh community agencies,
and everything, and always encouraging and upbeat. It’s been a blessing” (Group 11:63).
Another producer called his agricultural organization “always positive, always focused on
motivating” which helped him achieve success (Group 11:70).
While informal relationships oftentimes resulted in human capital development through farmers
teaching each other how to do various things, formal agricultural organizations helped producers
develop human capital skills with formal workshops, conferences, and meetings. Informal
networks yield rich relationships, whereas the formal structures of organizations help producers
develop extensive social networks and rich relationships.
These formal, structured networks in turn help yield results. One producer explained: “We get
information from each other with meetings every month. If we have a problem, we know we can
35
ask the entire group—you know, ‘I need help doing this’ and the group will help solve the
problem” (Group 4:50). Problem solving and knowledge sharing are key components of
organizations. One farmer further explained:
“Just gaining knowledge of from being participants in these different types of
organizations and associations, you just gain a lot of knowledge because you meet a lot of
experienced farmers from different walks of life, and you may not do the same thing that
they’re doing, but you can adjust what you’re doing on your farm to what they might be
doing, and it’s just gaining knowledge from a state level, a local level, and a national
level.” (Group 10:58)
To illustrate the importance of the local agricultural organization in the producer’s success in
specifically landing an approved application to a USDA program, one producer emphasized:
“It’s important, it really does work. [Because of this organization, applying] was an easy
process. It wasn’t like pulling teeth or anything. She gave me instructions. She told me
who to go see. I needed to go see [employee name]. I was not nervous, uncomfortable, or
feeling like I was not qualified. They told me what I needed to do, what I needed to have,
and I got it” (Group 5:171).
Another producer continued, illustrating the importance of agricultural organizations:
“And most of my information, uh, I use mostly for improving my farming I have picked
that up since I have become a member of [this organization]. Uh, and I have discovered
another thing too, uh, people is not what you know it’s who you know. I also discovered
that all of these, uh, agencies are funded by the government, but each county will offer
you the same thing, but they will give different perspective. Some things they allow in
[that county] to get we don’t get in [here]. Even sometimes they can out up the same offer
and they will be getting it over in [that county] and we won’t even get it [here]. So what I
am saying is but that’s no reason to stop. I heard the gentlemen say when you go in some
of the offices they look at you like you are in the wrong place, but that’s they have been
looking at us like that for a long time and so that’s no reason for you to stop. Keep on
keeping on. I have discovered that if you don’t give up you will get what you are looking
for. It is a known fact, and I want to say this too again… if you come together you can do
some things. As long as we are divided we’ll never accomplish nothing. Even though it’s
rough, but it’s been rough all the time. I tell them all the time uh roughness don’t frighten
me. I was brought up rough. I know how to handle rough and a lot of you have to because
I have seen some of you right there while I was. We can do it together if we don’t let
nobody divide us” (Group 9:105).
His statement illustrates the depth of encouragement and motivation found within the agricultural
organizationsencouragement against any issue be it nature or discrimination. These bonds
coupled with the knowledge and network that the organizations provided were invaluable
resources to the producers, helping them to begin to overcome existing barriers.
36
Conclusion
In the context of agricultural promotion, USDA has been the source of several claims of
discrimination. As part of the strategy to address this issues, within the USDA system, NRCS has
recently implemented strategies to increase participation of socially disadvantaged, limited
resource and beginning farmers and ranchers in the agricultural industry. Those strategies are
identified in their budget allocations and strategic plans. Despite of their efforts, the increasing
participation of these groups has been rather slow. Therefore, the significance of the current
work. We began by asking what are the perspectives and experiences regarding access to USDA-
NRCS funding among different groups of socially disadvantaged producers in Mississippi. Later
we query this: Are there pieces of the regulation that in and of itself constitute a barrier to access
NRCS funding? Or, although programs exist, are there problems at the implementation level than
can be addressed in order to enhance the participation of socially disadvantaged farmers and
ranchers in conservation programs? Derived from the policy analysis and focus groups, three
areas of concern emerged as relevant in the NRCS work with SDFR: 1) sustainability; 2)
organizational aspects; and 3) communication and outreach strategies.
The focus group participants discussed numerous barriers and challenges as well as several
factors that help them to achieve success in their farming operations. When talking about
acquiring financial and environmental sustainability, one farmer mused that to accomplish those
things, he needed the assistance of USDA. However, he had difficulty navigating the process.
He wanted someone to “take a chance” on him (Group 4:252). In talking about his wish for that
chance, he stated that he wanted to try to impress to the USDA employees and wished that they
would say back to him in response:
“’Yeah! Like this guy we know can pay back this loan. His credit’s not the best, but
we’re going to help him out because it’s going to help him in the long run by increasing
his credit. Plus if he fails on it, he can sell the tractor. It’s not like it’s going to go
anywhere.’ But um I mean the thing is you’re giving this man a chance to improve his
family, to improve his life that’s what America is supposed to be about” (Group 4:253).
America, he stresses, is supposed to be a meritocracy. It is supposed to be a fair place with no
barriers for those that work hardthe American Dream. Instead he alludes to the fact that it is
not; it is supposed to be that way, but falls short in numerous ways. Nevertheless, the producer
states that he goes on because “doesn’t stop you from keep moving forward. You just have to go
37
ahead and do what you’re going to try to do” (Group 10:32). Socially disadvantaged producers
are “moving ahead”, sometimes by themselves, however, they’re often joining forces and
creating informal and formal networks advancing their own relationships and informational
sharing and in turn, agriculture and the sustainability of the environment.
This conclusion of the focus groups summarizes farmers’ concerns and expectations regarding
access to federal funding. With these results, the research team identified areas of work. As
indicated earlier, the first area is sustainability. Conservation of the land by agricultural
producers is the key mission of NRCS. However, sustainability efforts can clash with
environmental and financial constraints of farmers, especially those of traditionally
underrepresented groups. As financial stability was a chief concern, farmers shared that to
continue farming and pursuing environmentally sustainable improvements, they turned to USDA
for assistance. Farmers identified sustainability practices as a “valuable asset” and means to
minimize risks from nature while improving the environmental and financial sustainability of
their farming operations.
A second key area of work is the organizational culture of NRCS. In terms of policy, the analysis
indicated that the organization’s strategic plans introduced activities aiming at increasing
diversity in the workforce and funding allocation committees. However, the organization needs
to increase awareness among its current workforce over potential discriminatory practices
embedded in the culture of the organization. As emerged from the focus groups, there are two
main organizational concerns that constitute barriers for farmers’ access to funding: transparency
and uniformity. Major transparency concerns (from the policy and farmers’ voices) are those
related to the lack of information regarding the totality of programs available, the lack of
diversity in allocation committees, complexity in the application process, and lack of information
pertaining the criteria for resource allocation. As far as uniformity, a major concern pertains to
the great deal of autonomy that NRCS county offices have to determine and enforce priorities for
funding allocation. Having identified these concerns, theory suggests that although programs to
increase SDFR participation in the agricultural industry can be in place, the role of street-level
bureaucrats in program implementation is critical (Lipsky, 1980). In this case, district and area
conservationists have an important power to apply discretionary decision-making about how to
apply or enforce rules. This will lead to the next area of work.
38
Although, communication can be considered a piece within the organizational concerns, this
research suggests that communication is in and of itself a major area of work for NRCS facing
the needs and expectations of SDFR. This work found that there are important communication
barriers to overcome: information about program availability is limited, a non-easy access to a
wide variety of administrative and technical information, and dissemination of information is
limited. Through the data collection process for this work, it was evident that the NRCS website
offers very valuable information, however it is not easily accessible to all publics. As part of the
outreach efforts, NRCS should commit to create a user-friendly portal and combine the strong
online presence with other means of communication that are more suitable for a variety of
audiences considering elements such as education level and age. It is important to make the
USDA-NRCS bureaucratic system available to all audiences, particularly traditionally
underrepresented groups. Online presence is and should remain a key mean of communication
with all farmers, however alternative and supplementary means of communication should be
implemented to overcome problems of miscommunication and/or lack of knowledge of NRCS
conservation programs, qualifications for participation, and alternatives to enhance the
application process. To overcome the organizational and communication barriers, farmers found
that a key piece of success is in the existing informal social networks and agricultural
organizations. In the context of agriculture, these can be highly functional for information
dissemination.
39
Recommendations
As a result of this research, recommendations fall into three categories: Sustainability,
organizational, and communication.
Sustainability
- Build upon “pride and accomplishment” that comes from farming, to reinforce
conservation efforts among minority and limited resource producers.
Develop strategies to leverage farmer’s commitment with the land, to reinforce
the need of conservations practices.
Design strategies to incorporate non-traditional audiences into the funding
streams.
Organizational culture
- Increase transparency of funding allocation criteria.
Design strategies to better communicate what are the criteria utilized to decide
resource allocation.
If feasible, design strategies to better communicate the estimated amount of
resources available per round and program.
- Increase awareness about the need to augment diversity in funding allocation committees.
Maintain current efforts to increase diversity in the workplace and decision-
making instances.
Facilitate the complaint system and make results publicly available and easily
accessible.
- Strengthen current outreach efforts in consortium with agricultural organizations.
Maintain current collaboration with agricultural organizations.
Recruit new personnel from these organizations.
Communication
- Improve communication strategies from NRCS towards SDFR.
40
Identify community leaders that can be critical for dissemination of information
about NRCS programs, deadlines, technical requirements of programs,
administrative processes.
Continue current efforts to establish communication with SDFR through their
agricultural organizations.
Identify avenues of communication with SDFR to address concerns related to
program implementation.
- Implement strategies of outreach that includes technical and administrative training to
leaders and communities
Outreach strategies should include details on: What are the different programs
available? What makes successful candidates to programs? What program are
suitable for what specific types of land and agricultural practices?
- Develop targeted communication for SDFR.
Design strategies to make the programs and application process easily available to
multiple audiences.
Open channels of communication with new clienteles through agricultural
organizations leadership.
Explore alternative means of communication that better reach minority and
limited resource producers. Take into account the demographic characteristics of
this group of producers.
- Illustrate what does success obtaining funding means.
Identify and communicate what practices are conducive to succeed in obtaining
funding for conservation practices.
Maintain the current effort for creating and communicating success stories.
41
Appendix
42
Appendix 1 A. Percentage of Women farmer operators, 2002, 2007 and 2012, MS
43
Appendix 1 B. Percentage of African American farmer operators, 2002, 2007 and 2012, MS
44
Appendix 2 Mississippi, Resource Concerns for EQIP, 2017
45
46
Appendix 3 Results of farmer surveys (N=84)
47
48
49
Word cloud from responses to the question: “What is the best thing about being a farmer?
50
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... On the other hand, as White (2018) argues in Freedom Farmers, with the growth of the contemporary African American agricultural movement (especially in metropolitan areas), there is a need to reflect upon new questions that reconsider the deep and complex roots of Black people with land and agriculture. We agree with White's position, and we contend it is very important to understand the current realities of Black farmers in historically segregated communities of the rural South (historically examined by White (2018)), where most of the Black farmers still experience structural racism, lack of access to resources, and marginalization (Hossfeld, Rico Mendez, and Russell 2018). ...
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The SSRC was established in 1950 and enjoys a long and storied history of research accomplishments. The impact of our research has had on the state, the nation and the world is evident in the success of our organization, which has ultimately been driven by the desire and dedication of our employees. Although an organization's annual report provides a venue to applaud the hard work and dedication of its employees for its success during the previous year, this particular report also celebrates our accomplished past and acknowledges significant historical milestones celebrated this year.
Article
The details of the congressional research service (CRS) reports are presented. Members of Congress turn for the nonpartisan research, analysis, and information they need to make informed decisions on behalf of the American people. CRS employs a highly educated professional staff who are hired. The structure of the CRS gives clues about its main research concerns. It is organized into the American Law; Domestic Social Policy; Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade; government and finance; Knowledge services group and industry interdisciplinary research divisions.
Book
This book offers a broad introduction to food policies in the United States. Real-world controversies and debates motivate the book’s attention to economic principles, policy analysis, nutrition science and contemporary data sources. It assumes that the reader's concern is not just the economic interests of farmers, but also includes nutrition, sustainable agriculture, the environment and food security. The book’s goal is to make US food policy more comprehensible to those inside and outside the agri-food sector whose interests and aspirations have been ignored. The chapters cover US agriculture, food production and the environment, international agricultural trade, food and beverage manufacturing, food retail and restaurants, food safety, dietary guidance, food labeling, advertising and federal food assistance programs for the poor. The author is an agricultural economist with many years of experience in the non-profit advocacy sector, the US Department of Agriculture and as a professor at Tufts University. The author's well-known blog on US food policy provides a forum for discussion and debate of the issues set out in the book.
Article
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) currently administer over 20 programs and subprograms that are directly or indirectly available to assist producers and landowners who wish to practice conservation on agricultural lands. The number, scope, and overall funding of these programs has grown in recent years. This growth can cause some confusion over which problems and conditions each program addresses, and specific program characteristics and performance. The programs are as follows: • Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) Program • Chesapeake Bay Watershed Program • Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) • Conservation Operations (CO); Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) • CRP-Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) • CRP-Farmable Wetlands Program • Conservation Security Program • Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) • Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) • Emergency Watershed Program (EWP) • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) • EQIP-Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) • EQIP-Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) • Farmland Protection Program (FPP) • Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) • Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP) • Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Program • Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program • Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations • Watershed Rehabilitation Program • Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) • Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) This tabular presentation provides basic information introducing each of the programs. In each case, a brief program description is followed by information on major amendments in the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246); national scope and availability; states with the greatest participation; the backlog of applications or other measures of continuing interest; program funding authority; FY20 10 estimated spending; the FY20 11 Administration budget request; statutory authority; the authorization expiration date; and a link to the program's website.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
Commodity Credit Corporation (2016). "Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Interim Rule Adopted as Final with Changes". Federal Register, Vol. 81 No. 92. Retrieved from [https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/05/12/2016-10161/environmentalquality-incentives-program-eqip]
United States Department of Agriculture: Independent Assessment of the Delivery of Technical and Financial Assistance. Civil Rights Assessment
  • Jackson Lewis
Jackson Lewis LLP, Corporate Diversity Counseling Group. (2011). United States Department of Agriculture: Independent Assessment of the Delivery of Technical and Financial Assistance. Civil Rights Assessment. New York, NY: Report for United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from [http://www.federationsoutherncoop.com/pigford/research/Civil_Rights_Assessment_Ex ecutive_Summary.pdf]
A New Era for Civil Rights at the People's Department
  • Joe Leonard
Leonard, Joe. (2011). A New Era for Civil Rights at the People's Department. Washington, DC: United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from (http://blogs.usda.gov/2016/08/02/a-new-era-for-civil-rights-at-the-peoples-department/).
Street Level Bureaucracy: Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Services
  • M Lipsly
Lipsly, M. (1980). Street Level Bureaucracy: Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Services. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation
Applying for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Funding. New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
  • G Miller
Miller, G. (2017). Applying for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Funding. New Entry Sustainable Farming Project. Retrieved from [https://nesfp.org/resources/applying-environmental-quality-incentives-program-eqipfunding]
Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP)
Nagel, S. S. (Ed.). (1999). Policy Analysis Methods. Commack, NY: Nova Science Publishers National Resources Conservation Service -NRCS. (2008). Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP). Retrieved from [https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/NRCS_RCA/reports/fb08_cp_whip.html]