USDA’s Office of Advocacy and Outreach was established by the 2008 Farm Bill to improve access to USDA programs and to improve the viability and profitability of small farms and ranches, beginning farmers and ranchers, and socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers. The Office has five key program areas: Socially Disadvantaged Farmers; Small and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers; Higher Education Institutions Program; Farm Worker Coordination; and Community Engagement.
The SOCIALLY DISADVANTAGED FARMER AND RANCHER PROGRAM AREA coordinates with USDA agencies to enhance access to USDA programs by minority farmers and ranchers. In addition, this program area administers the Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers (OASDFR) Competitive Grants Program (also known as the 2501 Program) which was moved here from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The primary purpose of the OASDFR Program is to enhance the coordination of outreach, technical assistance, and education efforts, to reach socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and to improve their participation in the full range of USDA programs. The program was provided $75 million in funding over the life of the 2008 Farm Bill.
This program area also manages the Advisory Committee on Minority Farmers. The advisory committee provides advice to the Secretary of Agriculture on the administration of the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Competitive Grant Program, makes recommendations on how to increase participation of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs, and advises the Secretary about civil rights activities of USDA as such activities affect USDA programs.
The SMALL AND BEGINNING FARMERS AND RANCHERS PROGRAM AREA coordinates and collaborates across USDA to enhance services to small and beginning farmers and ranchers. This area manages the activities of the Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers. The Committee advises the Secretary on ways to develop programs to provide coordinated assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers while maximizing new farming and ranching opportunities. The Committee also works to enhance and expand Federal State partnerships to provide financing for beginning farmers and ranchers.
The HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS PROGRAM AREA administers a nationwide network of USDA liaisons to the various institutions of higher learning including 1890 land-grant institutions, 1994 Tribal Land-Grant Colleges and Universities, and Hispanic-serving institutions.
The FARMWORKER COORDINATION PROGRAM AREA administers the low-income and migrant seasonal farm worker grants program under section 2281 of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990. The Farm Worker Coordinator integrates farm worker interests into Department programs, including assisting farm workers in becoming agricultural producers or landowners. Another priority of the Farm Worker Coordination Program is program improvement and agricultural education opportunities for low-income and migrant seasonal farm workers.
Section 14204 offers grants to eligible entities to assist agricultural employers and farm workers by improving the supply, stability, safety and training of the agricultural labor force. Such services include, but are not limited to: agricultural labor skills development, workplace literacy and assistance with English as a second language, health and safety instruction, short term housing while in transit to an agricultural worksite, etc. Section 14204 was moved from USDA Rural Development's Rural Housing Service to the Office of Advocacy and Outreach and is currently operated under the Farmworker Program.
The establishment of clear accountability measures is an essential component for providing the best service possible to the individuals and groups served by the Office of Advocacy and Outreach. The OAO will develop and implement a plan to coordinate outreach activities and services provided by the Department and will continually assess the effectiveness of its outreach programs and access to USDA programs