Barriers and Challenges faced by Latino Farmers and Ranchers - Report examines barriers to starting and sustaining a farm or ranch

Release Date: 

08/03/2011

Contact(s): 

John Crabtree, 402.687.2100 or johnc@cfra.org; or, Kathie Starkweather, 402.617.7946 or kathies@cfra.org
Lyons, NE - Today the Center for Rural Affairs released a preliminary report examining the barriers, challenges and limitations that Hispanic and Latino farmers and ranchers face in starting, developing and sustaining their farming and ranching operations. The report also explores farmers’ and ranchers’ relationships with the USDA, with particular emphasis on access to the agency’s programs.
“The primary purpose of this project was to reach out to Latino farmers and ranchers and learn from them about the barriers they face in accessing and utilizing USDA programs, while also helping those same farmers and ranchers successfully acquire, own, operate and retain their farms and ranches,” said Rafael Martinez, Center for Rural Affairs outreach coordinator for the project.
The report - entitled Hispanic and Latino Farmer and Rancher Outreach - is the second in a series of Center for Rural Affairs reports on this project and can be viewed and downloaded at http://files.cfra.org/pdf/barriers-hispanic-latino-farmer-rancher-report...
According to Martinez, despite the booming population increases of Latinos in the state over the last decade, a significant number of farmers and ranchers of Latino origins fled the agricultural sector in Nebraska.

“The question we wanted to answer was: Why have Nebraska and Missouri been unable to integrate this new generation of Latinos into the farm and ranch sector as stakeholders?” explained Martinez.

"The USDA and the Obama administration are committed to creating opportunities for Americans from all backgrounds,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Seventeen producers were successfully contacted and interviewed in eight Nebraska counties including: Clay, Custer, Dawson, Hall, Lancaster, Lincoln, Madison and Scottsbluff. The information collected focused on the way each producer operates their farm or ranch, emphasizing the kind of relationship they have with organizations that provide services directed toward the improvement of their operations.

The Center for Rural Affairs found the following factors to be particularly important in understanding the barriers and challenges that Latino farmers and ranchers face in beginning, developing and sustaining their farms and ranches.

Key Factors:
•    Limited access to land: The high prices of land, especially in more recent years, have made the process of renting and buying land more difficult.
•    Limited economic resilience: Most of the operations visited were smaller than average, in terms of land and capital, and more vulnerable to changes in the cost of inputs and prices received for their crops and livestock.
•    Limited access to machinery and equipment: Some interviewed producers expressed concerns about having difficulties renting machinery and equipment or contracting someone to do cultivation, planting and harvesting labors for them. Since the land-base of their operations is often small, it can be difficult to justify buying equipment for use only on their own farm or ranch.
•    Limited financial literacy: Latino producers also face challenges accessing financial resources that could help them start, develop and sustain their farm or ranch due to deficiencies in financial literacy. Newcomers getting started in farming or ranching are more likely to be unfamiliar with available agricultural credit systems or might lack a full understanding of how they work.
•    Limited education: Of the farmers and ranchers interviewed, more than 60% were raised in a foreign country. These individuals received the education that was available for them in the rural areas of those countries. Some of them might have attended elementary school and less likely high school. None of them have a college degree. Their knowledge and skills are based on their own experience. Moreover, their limited knowledge of written and spoken English and use of information technology are barriers that they face to access technical information that could help them implement practices to develop and improve their operations.
•    Lack of knowledge and understanding of  USDA programs: Most of the interviewed producers were unaware of the full array of USDA programs potentially available to them or were unaware that such USDA programs even existed.
•    Lacking financial records or business plans: Several farmers and ranchers reported that if they would apply for a USDA program, they feel they would not have all the information that the USDA requires to apply to such programs. Some of the producers who farm part-time have not been able to develop a business plan or keep appropriate records of the cash flows of the operation.
•    Misconceptions of programs: Also some smaller producers said they think the programs are designed only for large operations. The size of the operation, in land and capital, often played a significant role on the producersʼ perception of the availability of the programs.
In February, 2011, the Center for Rural Affairs and partners were awarded a grant through USDA’s Outreach Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Competitive Grants Program. The funding supported the planning and development of the outreach to Hispanic and Latino farmers in Nebraska and Missouri.

“Grants such as these help develop to ensure that minority landowners have access to a full range of USDA programs, helping them increase their profitability and stay on the farm,” concluded Vilsack.

The Center for Rural Affairs partnered on the project with the Cambio Center at the University of Missouri-Columbia, the Latino Research Initiative at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Alianzas  - a program of University of Missouri Extension and University of Missouri-Kansas City Institute of Human Development.

According to Martinez, project partners hope to learn more about the challenges Latino farmers and ranchers have encountered when they have tried to access a broad array of USDA Farm Service Agency, Natural Resource Conservation Service and Rural Development programs in the past, and work with them to develop strategies to overcoming those barriers. The project will result in a document that contains best practices for improving use of USDA programs by Hispanic/Latino farmers and ranchers across the country and create a vehicle to continue access to and utilization of USDA programs by building networks and training from within the communities.

The Center for Rural Affairs and partnering organizations will analyze information drawn from outreach interviews, combined with data from the Center’s first report in this series - A Snapshot of Missouri and Nebraska Latino Farmers and Ranchers [http://files.cfra.org/pdf/mo-ne-latino-farmer-report.pdf] - and utilize both to formulate recommendations and develop strategies to help Latino farmers and ranchers overcome the obstacles and limitations that they face.

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