The USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) has announced that around $13.5 million in grant money will be provided to educate farmers about available crop insurance and risk management tools.

Questions concerning 2011 crop loss numbers and how crop insurance might fare in the next farm bill were also shoehorned into a Friday morning press call with Bill Murphy, RMA Administrator.

The outreach efforts will “particularly highlighting limited-resource farmers, traditionally underserved farmers, new/beginning farmers, returning vets going back into agriculture,” said Murphy. So, quite a number of projects are being initiated this year.

“About $5 million of the $13.5 million are going to targeted states. These are states historically underserved in crop insurance: Delaware and Maryland north into New England, West Virginia, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and Hawaii.

“We’re very happy to announce the new grants. They’ll go all over the country – very small grants in some (cases) and some large grants in (others). It will meet a number of needs, we anticipate.”

For a complete list, see here.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said "despite hardships and setbacks due to extreme weather conditions in many parts of the country, American agriculture is experiencing its strongest year overall thanks to the dedication and resilience of our farmers and ranchers. USDA is committed to diversity, inclusion and performance in everything we do, and we need to continue to ensure opportunities in agriculture for all Americans. Through these partnerships, traditionally underserved agricultural producers and those in targeted states will receive assistance in understanding and using risk management tools.”

In a statement, the USDA said $8.5 million will go to fund 109 agreements. Examples include:

  • In Wisconsin, six hands-on workshops will educate dairy farmers on using recordkeeping and financial analysis software.
  • Washington state will expand on previous work with Hmong and Latino farmers using targeted farm production and business management curricula.
  • Oklahoma State University will hold a statewide conference and six regional conferences for producers of underserved commodities and specialty crops.
  • New and beginning refugee and immigrant farmers in Massachusetts will perform a risk management assessment of their operations, and be taught to incorporate risk management strategies and practices into their plans.

Murphy spoke about previous, successful work with the Hmong. “I worked for years in California and we did a number of programs with Hmong farmers. These folks mostly farm very small acreage for direct-market sales to the consumer.

“But they had very limited knowledge on how to market; how to look out for the regulatory aspects of farming – they were very unfamiliar with that; how to package and deliver products to increase opportunities for sale and price.

“So, a lot of grants we did at the time were directed to working with them. Many of those Hmong farmers moved into farmers markets established throughout the state. They increased their revenue considerably. Some have grown to the point where they no longer need the assistance. That’d ideally what we want to do.”