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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representatives Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Lujánintroduced bicameral legislation to improve access to assistance for certain groups of farmers. The Assist Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Act of 2018 would reauthorize, strengthen, and improve the Outreach to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program at the Department of Agriculture (USDA).

For nearly three decades, the Outreach to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program at USDA has been the primary tool to help our nation's underserved producers gain access to USDA services. New Mexico has received over two dozen grants through this program since 2003. The program is administered by the Office of Outreach and Advocacy and helps ensure that veteran, minority population, and immigrant farmers and ranchers have opportunities to successfully own, operate, and retain farms and ranches, and to equitably participate in USDA programs. The bill reauthorizes the Outreach to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, which expires this year, through 2023. It also makes several programmatic improvements to strengthen the operation of the program.

"From cattle ranchers to chile growers, New Mexico's farmers and ranchers help feed the nation and the world while growing our state's economy," said Senator Udall. "But with our farming workforce rapidly aging, it's critical that we find smart ways to empower a new and diverse generation of farmers and ranchers. On the Agriculture Appropriations Committee, I'll keep fighting for resources for common-sense programs to lift barriers and help open doors for hopeful new farmers – particularly veterans and those from underserved communities -across our state, from Rio Arriba to Doña Ana county."

"Ensuring a diverse generation of farmers and ranchers have access to assistance programs is important to continuing New Mexico's long tradition in agriculture," said Senator Heinrich. "By improving access to the Outreach to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program at USDA we can support New Mexico farmers and ranchers, create jobs and strengthen our state's economy."

"Since 2003, New Mexico has received 25 grants through this program that have helped underserved communities including veterans to spur economic growth and create jobs in ranching and farming," said Representative Lujan Grisham. "This program is critical for underserved populations to gain access to USDA's credit, commodity, conservation, and other programs and services, all of which result in a real return for every dollar invested. For example, USDA recently awarded the Desert Forge Foundation a $200,000 grant to help provide training and meaningful employment to veterans on their three successful working farms in Albuquerque."

"The Outreach to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program helps underserved communities gain access to USDA's credit, commodity, and conservation programs," said Representative Luján. "This legislation restores funding to the program and makes key improvements to increase the effectiveness of this program to support New Mexico's veteran and minority farmers and ranchers."

The bill is supported by over 100 groups, from the Rural Coalition to the Sierra Club to the National Family Farm Coalition.

A copy of the bill is available here and a fact sheet with a full list of supporters is available here.

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