- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, public policy
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives proposes to conduct a research and education project to determine (1) the prevalence of sustainable practices among African-American farmers and ranchers in four Deep South states, (2) the factors that promote or hinder adoption, and (3) the role of selected USDA programs in promoting transition to sustainable agriculture among this group.
The 2008 Farm Bill is notable in part because of its attention to the needs of beginning and limited resource farmers. Several key provisions appear to have the potential to help Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers (SDFRs) adopt sustainable practices, but this potential will be realized only if these provisions are implemented so as to recognize and address the circumstances in which these farmers and ranchers must operate.
At this critical turning point in federal agricultural policy, a study of SDFR (specifically, African-American farmers in the Deep South states) will provide information that will help to improve implementation of the 2008 Farm Bill and inform the designers of future Farm Bills.
We will develop a questionnaire to survey farmers and ranchers to be administered to 100 farmers and ranchers who have participated in Federation cooperatives and/or outreach programs.
The survey group will consist of a random sample of African-American farmers and ranchers in four states (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina) who are members of Federation cooperatives and/or have attended Federation-sponsored outreach events and/or have received technical assistance from the Federation during the past two years.
The survey will address sustainable practices in crop selection; management using environmentally safe methods; direct marketing, crop production methods; and membership in support organizations. The survey will also inquire about respondents' use of federal programs, specifically Specialty Crops, Value Added Grants, Environmental Quality Improvement (EQIP), Outreach and Assistance to Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers (OASDFR), FSA Credit programs, and the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development program.
We will invite five farmers and five professionals who work with farmers to participate in in-depth interviews to explore extensively the helping and hindering factors identified by the survey. Particular attention will be paid to key provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill. Results will be compiled into an interim report.
Participants in the in-depth interview phase of the project will be invited to a group session to discuss ways in which future Farm Bills could be modified to improve adoption of sustainable practices and participation in federal programs.
We will prepare a final report on findings and formulate recommendations for changes in key Farm Bill programs and their implementing regulations to facilitate more movement by Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers toward sustainable farming.
We will publicize findings in the report by publishing them on our website, www.federation.coop, at our conferences and workshops, at conferences conducted by other organizations, such as the Professional Agricultural Workers Conference (PAWC), and others.
Findings from this project will be very helpful to Southern SARE, to the Federation, and to other organizations that work with small farmers and ranchers, to help them adopt more sustainable practices.