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USDA updates programs to increase equity in agriculture

Snake River Ranch

News brief: 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced several program changes that aim to help farmers and ranchers. The department is also expanding disaster and pandemic assistance programs to help agricultural producers who have suffered infrastructure damages or other losses in the past few years.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said at the recent American Farm Bureau Conventionthat the last two years have been challenging. COVID-19, inflation and supply chain disruptions all made an impact, as did a new global conflict.

“Your world was turned upside-down when Russia made the invasion of Ukraine, because it disrupted our capacity to receive important inputs, like fertilizer,” Vilsack said.

Profits in the agricultural sector last year still reached their highest levels since 1973, according to a recent USDA report. Farm profits also grew more than 7 percent between 2021 and 2022. However, Vilsack said many people are still struggling.

About half of farming households did not make revenue through food or other agriculture production last year, meaning families often need to supplement their incomes through other means. The USDA said in its announcement that it wants to “increase competition and access to market opportunities, and ensure equity,” in their programs.

“We need to create more opportunities, more revenue streams, more markets, [and] more help,” Vilsack said.

The USDA’s investments include grants for domestic fertilizer production and meat processing to improve American food cultivation, as well as create jobs and supply chains within the U.S. The Fertilizer Production Expansion Program could soon invest $88 million in 21 fertilizer projects across the country, including sites in Colorado, Montana and Arizona.

Additionally, the USDA wants to improve aid for beginner, limited-resource and minority producers by removing barriers to existing assistance programs and providing better coverage for crops that may be uninsured in the event of a natural disaster.

The latest updates from the USDA are available at farmers.gov.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Will Walkey is currently a reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. Through 2023, Will was WPR's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. He first arrived in Wyoming in 2020, where he covered Teton County for KHOL 89.1 FM in Jackson. His work has aired on NPR and numerous member stations throughout the Rockies, and his story on elk feedgrounds in Western Wyoming won a regional Murrow award in 2021.
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