Sometimes help is available for farmers but finding that help may be as difficult as learning how to use the help after it is found. That can especially be true in the complicated world of government assistance.
Archie Hart, N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, has been appointed to a committee designed to help those "disadvantaged" farmers find that help. The committee will advise U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on implementation of outreach and assistance efforts to approved groups of farmers and ranchers.
Going by the name Minority Farmer Advisory Committee, the group is made up of 15-members who will promote the participation of minority farmers and ranchers in U.S. Department of Agriculture programs. Committee members serve a two-year term.
Hart directs the NCDA&CS Office for Small Farm Policy, which provides services to small, limited-resource and minority farmers. He has worked for the department since 1992.
"Archie has worked tirelessly to educate small, limited-resource and minority farmers about policy and grant programs, and provide a voice to underserved populations," says state Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "I am proud that USDA has chosen to put his knowledge and talent to use on this advisory committee."
Hart, who lives in Knightdale, N.C., has served on numerous boards and committees, including the N.C. Small Farm Commission and the Tobacco Farm Life Museum Board of Directors. He also serves on the Environmental Protection Agency's Farm, Ranch and Rural Communities Committee.
The Union County native is a graduate of N.C. A&T State University with a bachelor's degree in animal science and a master's degree in plant science. Before joining the NCDA&CS, Hart worked nine years for N.C. Cooperative Extension in Wake County.
Goals and ways to reach them
USDA has many programs that offer aid to the socially disadvantaged. The department makes and guarantees loans to approved socially disadvantaged applicants to buy and operate family farms and ranches.
The USDA says a socially disadvantaged farmer, rancher, or agricultural producer is one of a group whose members have been subjected to racial, ethnic, or gender prejudice because of his or her identity as a member of the group without regard to his or her individual qualities. SDA groups are women, African Americans, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
More information can be found at local Farm Service Agency county offices.
The USDA even has a mechanism that allows minority farmers to sign up to get automatic notification of information regarding programs. The USDA Minority Farm Register is a tool the USDA says promotes equal access to USDA farm programs and services for minority farmland owners, farmers, ranchers, tenants and other individuals with an agricultural interest.
Participants may receive information or be personally contacted through USDA outreach efforts. In addition to direct and guaranteed farm ownership and operating loans, and marketing loans, the USDA has programs for the disadvantaged for conservation, housing and rural business and risk management.
Participation in the Register is voluntary. All minority persons involved in farming or ranching are encouraged to participate. The information you provide may be shared through the USDA Office of Outreach with other USDA-approved outreach partners such as community-based organizations, educational institutions and other government agencies.
Find out more at www.usda.gov by searching on the term disadvantaged.