OKLAHOMA CITY, December 20, 2021 (Newswire.com) - The Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, announced on November 24, 2021 that the United States Department of Agriculture will provide approximately $75 million in American Rescue Plan funding to 20 organizations, providing assistance to connect underserved producers with USDA programs and services. However, of the 20 organizations that are set to receive funding - there is not a single organization focused on the empowerment of minority, women farmers - an overlooked, under-resourced group that continues to face systemic discrimination and inequality. Representing those excluded from this critical funding and support is the National Women in Agriculture Association [NWIAA]. Headquartered in Oklahoma, NWIAA was founded in 2008 by Dr. Tammy Gray-Steele, a fourth-generation Black woman farmer. Today, NWIAA is the largest non-profit women in agriculture organization, of its kind, with 40 U.S. state chapters.
For over 13 years, Dr. Tammy Gray-Steele has been seeking to have legislation passed that will re-distribute the balance of power and funding to achieve substantive change in the agricultural sector. NWIAA's mission is to engage minority youth and female farmers to reach their fullest potential while advancing in agriculture - providing life-skills, career opportunities, and the mentorship needed to become prosperous citizens.
NWIAA's educational programs have garnered the attention of top political voices. Former U.S. Congressman Mike Conaway of Texas shares his support, commenting, "NWIAA has worked tirelessly to reach minority youths across the country to prepare them for a future in agriculture - providing essential leadership for efforts to provide education and training that leads to professional careers in food-production and green jobs."
The exclusion from the American Rescue Plan funding is consistent with a pattern of inequality dating back centuries with unjust legislation and discriminatory practices hindering progress. This includes the 1914 Smith-Lever Act - still in effect today. The Smith Lever Act was initially intended to assist urban Black farmers; however, it has almost exclusively benefited white farmers - and has only been amended once in the 100-plus since its passing. NWIAA has been pursuing new legislation to address this continued deprivation of resources - advocating for The Minority Women & Children Equality Inclusion Act. This would increase targeted funding for Land-grant colleges, which currently share only 6% of the annual $300 million Smith-Lever appropriation. The legislation also seeks to engage minority youth in agriculture, by chartering NWIAA as a pilot provider of 4-H and FFA services for populations who are disproportionately marginalized. The persistent denial of funding from the USDA makes the Minority Women & Children Equality Inclusion Act urgently needed, now more than ever.
NWIAA is advocating for the sustainable support of minority children and women farmers who are NOT currently being reached by the USDA's valuable extension programs and the American Rescue Plan funding. Women farmers need to be part of the conversation and plant.
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Source: National Women in Agriculture Association