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USDA reaching out to women, blacks, ethnic groups in area

January 29, 2008

ANNAPOLIS - Elizabeth Anderson, executive director for USDA's Farm Service Agency in Maryland, says FSA is reaching out to women, ethnic and minority farmers in the state in an effort to get more of them involved in its programs.

"FSA programs are available to all producers but we would like to increase participation by traditionally underrepresented groups in all program areas," Anderson said.

FSA defines a socially disadvantaged (SDA) farmer, rancher, or agricultural producer as one of a group whose members have been subjected to racial, ethnic, or gender prejudice because of his or her identity as a member of the group without regard to his or her individual qualities. SDA groups are women, African-Americans, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

According to Anderson, the FSA also reserves a portion of its direct and guaranteed loan funds each year for SDA loans for eligible participants. These loan programs are designed to help farmers purchase and operate family farms.

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"With these loan programs, FSA hopes to help reverse the declining number of farmers and ranchers across the United States and especially here in Washington County," Anderson said. "These loans help to encourage and assist them in owning and operating their own farms and ranches, participate in agricultural programs and become integral parts of the agricultural community."

Applicants must meet the eligibility requirements for a given program before FSA can extend program benefits. For more information on these programs and other programs available through FSA, contact the Farm Service Agency at the county USDA Service Center.

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