There is a lot of money available to certain groups of people in the Farm Bill, but you need to fit a specific demographic in order to get it. I received an email letter this week from Rudy Arredondo with the National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association in Washington, DC. Attached to the letter was a statement approved by that organization as well as the Rural Coalition and the Community Food and Justice Coalition. In essence, it outlined and regaled the parts of the Farm Bill that will help those groups’ constituents, and expressed disappointment in portions of the bill that were cut.

I’m all for helping people in need, but too often government programs are used as an enabler – a substitute for hard work and sacrifice. The groups that appear to have preferred funding are beginning farmers, limited-resource farmers and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

We all know what a “beginning farmer” is, and few people would argue with government funding to help provide opportunities to this group of individuals, regardless of their race, religion, gender or nationality.

The USDA’s definition of a socially disadvantaged farmer is “a farmer or rancher who has been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudices because of their identity as a member of a group without regard to their individual qualities. This term means a farmer or rancher who is a member of a socially disadvantaged group. Specifically, a group whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities [sic]. Those groups include African Americans, American Indians or Alaskan natives, Hispanics, and Asians or Pacific Islanders.”

A limited-resource farmer is: 1) A person with direct or indirect gross farm sales not more than $172,800 (for FY2013) in each of the previous two years AND; 2) A person with a total household income at or below the national poverty level for a family of four or less than 50 percent of county median household income in each of the previous two years.

The designation was made in the 2008 Farm Act and states, "The Secretary of Agriculture . . . shall provide outreach and technical assistance to encourage and assist socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers to own and operate farms and ranches and to participate in agricultural programs."

The new Act passed by the House this week builds upon this base. It authorizes the Secretary to set aside 5 percent of available EQIP funds and CSP acres for socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers and allow up to 90 percent cost share for socially disadvantaged, limited resource and beginning farmers or ranchers. See also, Provisions for Historically Underserved Groups. Please also see the information on Conservation Opportunities in the 2008 Farm Bill for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers, Beginning Farmers and Ranchers, and Limited Resource Farmers and Ranchers.

Tomorrow, I’ll share some of the highlights of where and how the money has been allocated. You will be amazed.