On May 10, 2011, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund in Epes, Alabama, hosted the first Alabama USDA Eligibility Workshop for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers. About 50 farmers and landowners attended the workshop designed specifically for those who needed assistance applying, or who have never applied, for USDA programs and wanted to gain a better understanding of USDA eligibility criteria, programs, and the application process.
The Federation Cooperative Specialist Osagie Idehen and Director of Programs John Zippert welcomed the group to the meeting.
Dr. William Puckett, NRCS State Conservationist, greeted the producers and reiterated the agency’s pledge to assist everyone seeking services from USDA or NRCS.
The NRCS Assistant State Conservationist for Programs Steve Musser, Farm Service Agency (FSA) Sumter County Executive Director Mary McInnis, and Regional FSA Farm Loan Manager Gretchen Thomas, talked about farm and loan programs available through their respective agencies.
Participants were informed about where to find information, where to apply, and received copies of most of the forms they would need to become eligible. NRCS Resource Conservationist John Curtis and McInnis explained each step on the forms.
The presenters and west Alabama NRCS county personnel were available to meet one-on-one with producers to discuss eligibility and participation in programs such as hoop houses, fencing, watering troughs, tree planting and management, pasture planting, plasticulture and micro-irrigation, organic farming, and other practices.
The Federation’s Outreach Specialists pledged to provide follow ups and technical assistance throughout the application process for those who are found to be, or could become, eligible for NRCS programs.
The participating agencies were pleased with the results of the meeting. An additional meeting is planned in Marion, Alabama, for all landowners that need assistance to apply for USDA programs.
Interested producers should visit their nearest USDA Service Center to determine eligibility. Contact your local NRCS or Farm Service Agency Office to begin this process. NRCS field offices are listed in the telephone directory under U.S. Department of Agriculture or on-line at http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov.