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Historically Underserved

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill) continues to address the unique circumstances and concerns of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, as well as beginning and limited resource farmers and ranchers. It provides for voluntary participation, offers incentives, and focuses on equity in accessing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and services.

The 2008 Farm Bill also authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to provide up to 90 percent of the typical costs associated with planning and implementing conservation measures for socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers or ranchers. In addition, up to 30 percent of such payments may be provided in advance for anticipated "out-of-pocket" costs associated with purchasing materials, supplies, equipment, and services required for practice installation.  Note:  Advance payments are only eligible for structural practices and the participant must have an engineering plan developed prior to requesting the advance payments.

Definitions

Beginning Farmer or Rancher

A Beginning Farmer or Rancher means an individual or entity who:

  • Has not operated a farm or ranch, or who has operated a farm or ranch for not more than 10 consecutive years.

  • This requirement applies to all members of an entity, will materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm or ranch.

    • In the case of a contract with an individual, individually or with the immediate family, material and substantial participation requires that the individual provide substantial day-to-day labor and management of the farm or ranch, consistent with the practices in the county or State where the farm is located.

    • In the case of a contract with an entity, all members must materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm or ranch. Material and substantial participation requires that each of the members provide some amount of the management, or labor and management necessary for day-to-day activities, such that if each of the members did not provide these inputs, operation of the farm or ranch would be seriously impaired. 

Socially Disadvantaged Farmer or Rancher 

According to Section 2501(e)(2) of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (7 USC 2279(e)(2)), a Socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher is defined as a farmer or rancher who is a member of a “Socially Disadvantaged Group".  Therefore a "Socially Disadvantaged Farmer or Rancher" is defined as:

  • Socially disadvantaged group - a group whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities.  The definition that applies to Titles I, V, and VI includes members of a group subject to gender prejudice, while the definition that applies to Titles II, IX, XII, and XV does not. Title XIV and the Education and Risk Management Assistance provision in Title XII do not make specific reference to the statutory definition of socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher. 
  • Socially disadvantaged Farmer or Rancher - a farmer or rancher who has been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudices because of their identity as a member of a group without regard to their individual qualities.  This term means a farmer or rancher who is a member of a socially disadvantaged group. Specifically, a group whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities. Those groups include African Americans, American Indians or Alaskan natives, Hispanics, and Asians or Pacific Islanders.
  • Note: Gender alone is not a covered group.

Limited Resource Farmer or Rancher

A Limited Resource Farmer or Rancher or Forest Owner is an applicant:

  • With direct or indirect gross farm sales not more than the current indexed value in each of the previous 2 years,and
  • Who has a total household income at or below the national poverty level for a family of four, or less than 50 percent of county median household income in each of the previous 2 years.

An entity or joint operation can be a Limited Resource Farmer or Rancher if all individual members independently qualify.

Limited Resource Farmer Self-Determination Tool

The purpose of this self determination tool is to enable potential limited resource farmers and ranchers to ascertain eligibility for various USDA programs and benefits. 

Indian Tribes

Indian Tribe means any Indian Tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.C. 1601 et seq. ) that is Federally recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.

NOTE: “Indian Entities Recognized and Eligible To Receive Services From the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs” available at:  http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-6968.pdf  

Additional Information

2008 Farm Bill Fact Sheet details assistance available.
USDA reaches out to people, especially the underserved, who can benefit from its programs and services.
NRCS assistance available for socially disadvantaged, beginning, and limited resource farmers.