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Barriers farmers face from receiving USDA resources

Posted at 4:52 PM, Oct 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-28 02:53:48-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The top ten percent of agriculture producers in the country have received 60 percent of the benefits given from COVID-19 relief funds according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That is because the department distributes funds based on how much one produces.

The secretary for the department, Tom Vilsack, said that although it sounds rational, it leaves many small Kern County farmers, who are often women or people of color with very little resources.

The department’s plan to create a commission that will try to solve these barriers and who is working to get some central valley representation at that table.

The main commission will be composed of 15 members from across the country. So, with Kern County being so important on the agriculture stage, you can see why organizations are pushing for local farmers and organizers to submit their applications to be a part of this.

One of those organizations is ‘Communities for a New California Education Fund’, their executive director said they hope someone from the central valley is chosen so this area can have a voice within such a large federal entity.

“Hopefully, the equity commission will identify language access as one of those issues needed to be overcome, which will enable more families not just from Kern County but the San Joaquin Valley to participate and apply and participate in more USDA-sponsored programs,” said Pablo Rodriguez, Executive Director of Communities for a New California Education Fund.

Rodriguez explained that in California, everyone, including farmers, pay a lot in federal income taxes and often don’t take advantage of these programs. Adding this can also be traced back to farmers simply not knowing about these resources.

“They are not necessarily doing outreach, to families in Kern County on the ground. And what we know is that there will be many people who are farmers. In this case, right, for example, we are up early working, we are not necessarily watching the news and keeping an eye out for press releases.”

That is why the commission which will be composed of 15 people from all across the nation that are already in these communities and can identify the various issues being faced as well as make a plan to solve them.

Some of these barriers are outreach and language, but the Senior Advisor for Racial Justice and Equity at the USDA, Dr. Dewayne Goldmon said they are looking to also improve the distribution of resources and representation.

“All farmers regardless of color, race, ethnicity gender, all farmers are proportionally represented from top to bottom throughout the department.”

Although the main commission will focus on those running farms, there will also be a subcommittee that will address farmworker issues, which were highlighted during a press conference Wednesday with the California Attorney General.

Elderly Filipino grandmothers picking grapes in extreme heat as they breathe toxic pesticides and dust into their lungs. We have heard of young Latino fathers and pregnant mothers denied their full earned wages after a full day’s work,” said California Attorney General, Rob Bonta.

The application deadline has been extended to November 30 and anyone from farmers to community organizers or even civil rights specialists are encouraged to apply as participation is key to bringing change.