Arkansas’s minority farmers will benefit first from a $2 million grant Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln has secured from the USDA Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers program.
“As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I am committed to ensuring that every farmer in Arkansas receives equal treatment and access when it comes to USDA programs and services,” said Lincoln.
Lincoln also vowed to continue working for full funding of the discrimination claims awarded to African-American farmers in the settlement of the Pigford lawsuit against USDA.
On May 8, Lincoln — joined by USDA Assistant Secretary Pearlie Reed and USDA Rural Development State Director Lawrence McCullough — announced that five Arkansas organizations have been awarded a total of $2 million from the USDA program.
“This is the largest allocation from this program our state has received to date,” said Lincoln. “This funding is key to job creation in the Arkansas Delta.”
Five Arkansas organizations have been awarded $400,000 each: Arkansas Land and Farm Development; Audubon Arkansas; East Arkansas Enterprise Community; Seven Harvest Inc.; and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. The funding will address job creation, domestic energy independence and the reduction of food deserts, among other issues.
Lincoln utilized her position as Senate Agriculture Committee chairman to encourage USDA to allocate funds to Arkansas institutions.
In addition, Lincoln has worked in the Senate to help provide compensation owed African-American farmers who have been victims of discrimination. In 2009, she cosponsored legislation to ensure farmers who filed Pigford settlement claims as a result of the 2008 farm bill will receive money entitled to them.
“The bill ensures that, once the $100 million authorized in the farm bill is spent, successful claimants will still be able to receive the funding to which they are entitled,” said Lincoln.
Lincoln supports the $1.5 billion President Obama requested in his budget proposal earlier this year to fund the claims. She recently sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urging him to support an emergency designation to secure the funds necessary to compensate African-American farmers who prevail in their discrimination claims.
After the Senate blocked the emergency designation in early May, Lincoln said, “I will continue to fighting on behalf of these farmers until justice is served and we can close this chapter of discrimination within USDA.”