Carper, Smith, Colleagues Urge USDA to Improve Services so Farmers of Color Have Equitable Access to Programs and Benefits
Senators Calls for Improved Translation Services; Navigator Program to
Help Farmers of Color Navigate USDA Systems and Processes
WASHINGTON, D.C—Today, U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and three of their Senate colleagues sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to use funding made available through the landmark American Rescue Plan legislation to make sure that farmers of color have equitable access to all the programs and benefits available to producers in Delaware and across the country.
“It is our goal to expand opportunities in agriculture for everyone, and to ensure that all farming communities across the country can access USDA resources,” the Senator’s wrote. “Improved translation services and a navigator program are steps that the USDA can take internally and externally to achieve equity for farmers of color.”
You can access a copy of the letter—also signed by Senators Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) — here or below:
The Honorable Thomas J. Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 205010
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
The pandemic has only heightened the economic pain that many of our nation’s farmers of color are facing after years of low farm prices, trade disruptions, volatile markets, and historic levels of farm debt. Because our nation’s farmers of color have historically been excluded from fully utilizing the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) resources and support, the USDA must ensure that farmers of color have equitable access to all the programs and benefits that are afforded to producers.
That is why we strongly urge you to designate some of the funds made available through the American Rescue Plan for farmers of color, and explicitly be used to improve translation services at the USDA. We often hear from farmers in our states who do not speak English as their first language the difficulties they face in filling out USDA forms.
Nonnative English speakers are farming across the country, speaking a multitude of languages. The USDA should ensure that no farmer be excluded from USDA assistance because of a language barrier.
In order to better serve farmers of color, we also advise the USDA to pilot a navigator program to help farmers of color navigate USDA’s systems and processes, which can often be quite difficult to work through. A USDA certified navigator – working through a community advocacy organization — would be able to help farmers and producers understand all the programs that USDA has to offer.
It is our goal to expand opportunities in agriculture for everyone, and to ensure that all farming communities across the country can access USDA resources. Improved translation services and a navigator program are steps that the USDA can take internally and externally to achieve equity for farmers of color.