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Equity Accomplishments

Equity Action PlansEquity Commission

USDA’s commitment to equity spans the Department’s mission areas and agencies. This page shares some of the progress since 2021. For more information view USDA's Equity Action Plans.


Gilbert Louis Jr.

1. Reducing Barriers to USDA Programs

USDA is reducing barriers to programs and improving support to underserved farmers, ranchers, landowners, businesses, and communities, including by providing ways for stakeholders to share their experiences, insights, and needs and by incorporating that input into policy development and implementation improvement.

"FSA is important if you farm. Without FSA, many farmers would not be able to survive, especially due to the high cost of farming.”
-Warren Nixon, Generational Farmer, South Carolina, Farm Loan Program participant

  • To increase support for young and beginning farmers, USDA is utilizing multiple programs and approaches.
    • USDA has identified Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coordinators from State Office staff of the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rural Development, and Risk Management Agency. These coordinators are leading development and implementation of beginning farmer education, outreach, and technical assistance plans for their states, including outreach to small, minority, and specialty crop producers as well as non-profits and other service providers. They are supported by regional coordinators and the USDA National Beginning Farmer Coordinator.
    • In November 2023 USDA announced an investment of $27.9 million across 45 organizations that teach and train beginning farmers and ranchers, including programs for U.S. veterans who are entering into agricultural careers and starting new farming businesses. This investment is part of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), which supports a wide range of professional development activities and topics, such as managing capital, acquiring and managing land, and learning effective business and farming practices.
  • Reducing matching requirements for wildfire risk reduction. USDA’s Forest Service is targeting wildfire prevention (PDF, 1.3 MB) where it is needed most, including underserved and Tribal communities by addressing matching requirements to facilitate robust investments in underserved communities. Forest Service plans to explore reduction of the cooperator matching requirements for competitive funding opportunities related to wildfire risk reduction to increase ready access to critical funds and programs that would benefit disadvantaged communities, including Tribes.
  • Investing in Community Food Projects. In October 2023, NIFA announced their investment of $4.8 million into community food projects which increase communities’ food and nutrition security by supporting people through small to medium farmers, producers and processors in urban, rural, tribal, and insular areas. The program provides communities a voice in food system decisions and supports local food markets to fully benefit the community, increase food and nutrition security and stimulate local economies. These projects meet specific state, tribal, insular, local or neighborhood food and agricultural needs for infrastructure improvement and development, while reducing barriers to food access and increasing food and nutrition security for communities across the nation.
  • Adaptation in action through Climate Hubs. On October 7, 2021, USDA released its Action Plan for Climate Adaptation and Resilience, a framework for how USDA will prepare American farmers, ranchers, and land managers for the current and anticipated impacts of climate change. The Climate Hubs and their partners develop locally-specific tools and resources to help build climate change adaptation capacity across the country.
    • In January 2022, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) expanded the capacity of USDA’s Climate Hubs by investing $1.5 million in the collaborative Native Climate project, which is designed to serve as a “climate clearinghouse” of tools and technologies to support climate resilience planning and actions by Tribal agriculture producers in the Intermountain West.
    • The USDA Caribbean Climate Hub announced a series of climate focused OneUSDA workshops aimed to foster farmer and forest manager awareness of climate change, trends and projections, key vulnerabilities in the region, and relevant actions and resources available from USDA agencies, Extension, and other entities.
    • In May 2023, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Agriculture And Food Research Initiative (AFRI) announced $9 million in grants to support projects that provide effective, translatable and scalable approaches to address climate change through regional partnerships. These grants will help recipients develop and deliver science-based information and resources that are regionally specific and thus more equitably address the climate needs of specific communities.
  • Expanding funding for participation in voluntary conservation programs and adopting climate-smart practices. In September 2023, the Department announced more than $3 billion available for agricultural producers and forest landowners nationwide to participate in voluntary conservation programs and adopt climate-smart practices in fiscal year 2024 as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda. Provided by the Inflation-Reduction Act, these funds invest an additional $19.5 billion to USDA's popular conservation programs that advance the Justice40 Initiative, which aims to ensure 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain climate, clean energy, and other federal investments reach disadvantaged communities that have been marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution.
  • Building a stronger infrastructure and increasing economic opportunity for rural America. The Department announced in November 2023 that USDA is investing more than $1.2 billion in loans and grants for 112 projects to spur economic development, catalyze rural prosperity and advance equity through rural cooperatives in 36 states and Puerto Rico. In August, they announced that USDA is investing $808 million to help rural cooperatives and utilities build and improve electric infrastructure and increase electric grid reliability and security, connecting hundreds of thousands of people in rural areas. This funding will benefit nearly 480,000 people in 36 states and two U.S. territories while building and strengthening rural infrastructure and creating good-paying jobs.
  • Improving crop insurance options for small and diversified farmers. The Department announced in August 2023 USDA is improving crop insurance options for small and diversified farmers as part of the Department's Risk Management Agency (RMA) efforts to increase participation and access to crop insurance. Improvements to the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WRFP) and Micro Farm insurance plans include making the policy more affordable for single commodity producers and moving the sales closing date to a less busy time of year so that agents have more time to assist growers with important risk management decisions.
  • USDA CARES: Listen Better, Serve Better. In August 2023 USDA CARES (Collaborate, Act, Rebuild, Empower, Strengthen) was launched as a customer service initiative designed to collaborate with USDA partners to act on what it learns from customers, rebuild trust, empower underserved communities, and strengthen partnerships by improving access to resources. USDA CARES was designed to better connect underserved producers and USDA partner organizations who serve them, with relevant programs and services by increasing access to helpful resources. Learn more about CARES and the Partner Portal on the USDA CARES website.
  • Creating opportunities for underserved and small acreage forest landowners to participate in climate markets. In August 2023, the Department, in partnership with the Forest Service, announced a $150 million investment to help underserved and small acreage forest landowners connect to emerging voluntary climate markets. The investments expand access to markets that were previously out-of-reach, allowing underserved and small-acreage forest landowners to address climate change while also supporting rural economies, maintaining land ownership for future generations, and protecting private forestlands from increasing development pressure.
  • Increasing Land, Capital, and Market Access for Underserved Producers. In June 2023, the Department announced investing approximately $300 million to fund 50 innovative projects to improve access to land, capital, and markets for underserved farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners. The Increasing Land, Capital, and Market Access (Increasing Land Access) Program, funded by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, promotes access to farm ownership; strengthens results for those with heirs’ property or fractionated land; increases access to markets and capital that affect the ability to access land; and improves land ownership, land succession, and agricultural business planning. Because these projects are likely to result in the purchase of land, construction of farm infrastructure, and other activities that could impact environmental resources, the Department has developed a Programmatic Environmental Assessment for the Increasing Land Access Program under the National Environmental Policy Act.
  • Reducing barriers and increasing access to nutrition programs among tribal nations. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) demonstration pilot project has increased program access, provided nutrition assistance and reduced unique barriers that some tribal nation SNAP clients experience. The pilot project, which began in 2009 with one Washington state tribe--the Port Gamble S’Klallam--was intended to reduce barriers to nutrition access programs for those living in remote areas or those with limited transportation. As a result of the pilot's success, the Department announced in June 2023 that the program will expand to serve five additional tribal nations--the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Lummi Nation, Quileute Tribe, Quinault Indian Nation, and the Spokane Tribe of Indians.
  • USDA Organic Transition Initiative. This program aims to reduce financial barriers that may stand in the way of domestic producers’ transition to organic certification. It also increases domestic access to organically produced goods and decreases reliance on foreign markets with their foreign supply chain challenges. The program launched in October 2022; in May 2023, the Department announced additional steps to strengthen the market for domestically grown organic goods and to support producers seeking organic certification. The new Organic Market Development Grant (OMDG) Program, administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), will issue up to $75 million in grants to domestic growers. The initiative will continue to help build new and better markets, strengthen local and regional food systems, and increase food supply and affordability.

  • Progress Towards Fair, Competitive, and Transparent Markets. In May 2023, USDA published a fact sheet addressing efforts taken by the Department to address competition issues in agricultural markets in response to the 2021 Biden Administration’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in America’s Economy. Highlights of USDA’s efforts include:
    • Launching an unprecedented multibillion-dollar investment plan to directly incentivize competition in food processing and fertilizer, creating more market opportunities and input options for producers.
    • Reinvigorating USDA’s century-old fair and competitive market laws with new rules and enforcement to counter unfair, deceptive, and anti-competitive practices and empower producers and growers.
    • Supporting transparency.
    • Creating a fairer market for seeds and other agricultural inputs.
    • Enhancing value-added market access.
    • Promoting competition in transportation networks that producers depend on.
  • Expanding USDA Regional Food Business Centers and Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure Program (RFSI). In May of 2023, USDA announced 12 organizations that will be new USDA Regional Food Business Centers. These centers will provide national coverage coordination, technical assistance, and capacity building to help farmers, ranchers, and other food businesses access new markets and navigate federal, state, and local resources. Additionally, USDA also announced a $420 million Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure Program to fund innovative projects designed to build resilience and strengthen local and regional food systems. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will partner with state and territories’ departments of agriculture for this program. Interested applicants are encouraged to apply directly through their state agency.
  • The AgDiscovery Program. The AgDiscovery Program, initiated by the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), received an overwhelming response with 911 student applications in the spring of 2023. The program partners with 21 universities to provide free summer camps aimed at inspiring teenagers to explore career opportunities in the field of agricultural sciences. By offering this unique opportunity, APHIS amplifies equity by ensuring that students from diverse backgrounds have access to and can pursue their interests in the agricultural sciences.
  • Simplified direct farm loan application process. Approximately 26,000 producers submit a direct loan application to the Farm Service Agency (FSA) annually, but there is a high rate of incomplete or withdrawn applications, due in part to a challenging and lengthy paper-based application process. In response, FSA implemented a simplified direct farm loan application process in February 2023, drastically reducing the burden and time spent on its forms. The agency has also rolled out a loan assistance tool that helps farmers and ranchers better navigate the farm loan application process.
  • WIC modernization. USDA is investing in outreach, innovation, and modernization to ensure that the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program meets the needs of today’s busy families. WIC modernization is focused on enrolling and keeping enrolled all eligible families, while making shopping simple and convenient, continues to support remote benefit delivery options so that families can use all their benefits, and making WIC equitable and accessible for all. As part of the modernization, USDA continues to support remote benefit delivery options, so WIC participants do not need to travel to a physical clinic location to receive services; in addition, the agency has published a proposed rule to remove regulatory barriers to online shopping and support a modern and equitable shopping experience for WIC participants. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service’s investment plan is based on input received through more than 30 stakeholder sessions, and FNS will develop and implement a national WIC Public Health Outreach Campaign to increase awareness of the health and nutrition benefits associated with participating in WIC. FNS awarded a contract to carry out the campaign, which is authorized and funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and it will formally launch in FY2024.

  • Increasing access for small producers to become USDA Foods vendors. In February 2023, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) lowered administrative barriers for suppliers interested in becoming approved USDA Foods vendors, so that more producers – especially smaller producers – can gain access to markets such as school food programs. This change marks one more instance of USDA transforming America’s food system by promoting competition and fairer markets for all producers.
  • Access for Indian Country. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) made substantial changes to address barriers and inequities in Indian Country through updating the Livestock Indemnity Program’s 2022 payment rates to (1) recognize tribal traditional animals and better reflect true market value of non-adult beef, beefalo, bison, and dairy animals; (2) update several livestock programs to include horses not intended to be used for racing and wagering, allowing participation by eligible tribal ranchers who use forage to raise their horses; and (3) modify the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and signing historic new agreements with three tribal nations in the Great Plains that will help enroll eligible agricultural land that lies within reservation boundaries.
  • Increasing access to NAP. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) has long heard about the challenges underserved farmers have faced in navigating the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP); in January 2023, FSA announced program updates that reduce the paperwork burden on these producers to access free basic NAP coverage with a NAP service-fee waiver.
  • Increasing Tribal Access to Conservation Programs. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) lowered barriers to program participation, including by updating policies relating to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to provide Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations with additional flexibilities for funding, planning, and administration where existing processes created barriers to program participation. Separate EQIP funding opportunities were also established for beginning and underserved producers. NRCS also streamlined processes to assist in the application for more than one program at once.
  • Improving access to our programs for formerly-incarcerated individuals. Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will continue to promote administrative waivers to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) State agencies that allow for the acceptance and processing of SNAP applications prior to release, enabling re-entering individuals to receive benefits faster; host a webinar to highlight promising practices from state and local SNAP agencies partnering with correctional facilities to connect formerly incarcerated individuals with nutrition services; and update and reissue a series of myth-busters to clarify SNAP eligibility for individuals with criminal records.
  • Expanding Nationwide Access to Broadband. Rural Development’s (RD) ReConnect Program provides loans, grants, and loan-grant combinations to bring high-speed internet to rural areas that lack sufficient access to broadband. In FY22, in the program’s third round of funding, RD authorized 100% grants (without matching requirements) for Alaska Native Corporations, Tribal Governments, Colonias, Persistent Poverty Areas, and Socially Vulnerable Communities. For the fourth round, an additional no-match funding category was added in August 2022 for projects where 90% of households lack sufficient access to broadband. Scoring of applications emphasizes equity.
    • In April 2023, USDA invested $40 million to provide high-speed internet access for people living and working in rural areas in New Mexico. Three New Mexico Cooperatives will receive grants to deploy fiber-to-the-premises networks to provide high-speed internet access to rural counties. This will make high-speed internet affordable by participating in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Programs (ACP).
    • In June 2023, the Department announced $714 million in grants and loans to connect thousands of rural residents, farmers and business owners in 19 states to reliable, affordable high-speed internet. Since the beginning of the Biden-Harris Administration, the Department has invested in 142 ReConnect projects that will bring high-speed internet access to 314,000 rural Americans.
  • Reducing barriers posed by fund match requirements. The Forest Service (FS) made significant changes in July 2022 to its grants and agreements program, which will more equitably open doors for underserved communities, Tribes, and non-traditional partners. Financial matching requirements that are not mandated by statute are being waived for all cooperative agreements with Tribal communities. A program review is underway to ensure that, where discretion permits, financial matching requirements are waived or significantly reduced for agreements serving disadvantaged communities.
  • Helping Farmers Solve Succession Issues. USDA has provided $67 million in competitive loans through its new Heirs’ Property Relending Program. The program, launched in July 2021, allows intermediary lenders to help agricultural producers and landowners resolve heirs’ land ownership and succession issues. Heirs’ property and other land tenure issues have long been substantial barriers preventing access to USDA programs for many producers and landowners, and this relending program provides access to capital to help producers find a resolution. The program’s benefits go far beyond its participants; it will keep farmland in farming, protect family farm legacies, and support economic viability.
  • Investing in Urban Agriculture. Historically, the lack of USDA offices and presence in urban and suburban areas and the absence of USDA farm programs that are aligned with the needs of urban and suburban agricultural producers have been barriers to access. In response, the Department has stood up the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (OUAIP), a department-wide office housed in the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Additionally, the Department has invested approximately $10.7 million in the Patrick Leahy Farm to School Program and funded $30 million to a new Local and Regional Healthy Food Financing Partnership Initiative.
    • To date, OUAIP has awarded approximately $55 million, including $44 million in FY2022 American Rescue Plan funding for Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production competitive grants (funding for planning and implementation projects with priority to areas lacking access to healthy, affordable food), Composting and Food Waste Reeducation cooperative agreements (funding for municipal food waste and compost projects), and the People’s Garden Initiative (funding for educational food producing gardens in 17 cities).
    • OUAIP has been coordinating with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and NRCS to open 17 Urban Service Centers in cities selected for pilot Urban County Committees. The Urban Service Centers will open this year and provide urban producers one convenient location where they can enroll in FSA and NRCS programs and learn about other USDA programs available to support their operations.
    • OUAIP has been working with newly hired Urban Agriculture Coordinators at FSA and NRCS to modify programs to eliminate barriers to participation by urban and innovative producers nationwide, including by adjusting payment scenarios for use on small-scale operations, and developing new practice standards to better serve on small-scale urban agriculture operations.
  • Assistance for small meat/poultry processers. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is providing relief from inspection overtime charges for small and very small meat and poultry processing establishments.
  • Removing derogatory names. The Forest Service (FS) is working with the U.S. Department of the Interior to rename landmarks on the federal lands they manage that have derogatory names.
  • Expanding crop insurance to more crops and producers. Through a series of stakeholder engagements, USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) learned about the needs of specialty crop and underserved producers, and has used tools in the 2018 Farm Bill to improve policy, rolling out (1) a new nursery policy that is easier for producers to access and for insurance companies to sell and service, (2) a new policy for strawberries in Florida and California, (3) several modifications to the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection program to expand eligibility limits and provide more coverage for organic and livestock producers, and (4) a new Micro Farm Program targeted at providing crop insurance for smaller producers who sell locally, such as to farmers markets.
  • Modernizing FPAC processes. So that farmer and rancher requests take fewer steps and less time to deliver results, the Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) mission area is using new processes and technology—including expanded use of digital signatures, remote workload processing, and a centralized call center staffed with employees readily available to assist customers.
  • Diversity in trade missions. USDA’s Agribusiness Trade Mission program strongly encourages participation from a wide variety of businesses. In 2022, nearly 40 percent of U.S. companies that participated in USDA Trade Missions were women-, minority-, or tribal-owned. The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) reached out to the Inter-tribal Agriculture Council to promote the participation of tribal owned companies.
  • Facilitating wide participation in FSA county committees. Many producers and commissions have recommended that Farm Service Agency (FSA) ensure that producers have access to county maps, increasing the potential for underserved producers to effectively participate in FSA’s county committee nominations and elections process. FSA has published a new GIS Locator Tool to solve this problem.
  • Improving language access. USDA is working across the Department to improve access for members of the public whose English proficiency is limited. Among many areas of progress:
    • In November 2023 USDA released a department-wide language access plan to ensure individuals with limited English proficiency receive meaningful access to USDA’s resources, programs, and activities. The updated language access plan comes on the one-year anniversary of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland’s language access memorandum to federal agencies. Under this plan, USDA mission areas, agencies, staff offices, and staff will continue to plan for and provide individuals with limited English proficiency with timely, accurate, and effective communications within all programs or activities conducted by USDA, and work to ensure that providers of USDA-supported programs are complying with their corresponding obligations.
    • USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has been working to translate its website and public-facing nutrition assistance program and nondiscrimination materials into Spanish and 54 other languages for recipients of Federal Financial Assistance to use, including the SNAP Eligibility page, a prototype school meals application, the CACFP Meal Benefit Eligibility Form, and WIC Breastfeeding Support resources. In 2022, FNS published a Non-Citizen Communities webpage that provides information on the FNS programs that support eligible non-citizens and family members; FNS plans to develop a SNAP-specific non-citizen page in the future. In addition, FNS Reach and Resiliency grant funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) can be used to translate program materials into additional languages. FNS also developed a Language Access Plan to eliminate or reduce, to the maximum extent practicable, limited English proficiency as a barrier to accessing Agency programs and activities.
    • In the Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) mission area—covering the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Risk Management Agency—more than 200 new Spanish-language webpages were built in the last year alone, on, highlighting priority programs, deadlines, and opportunities. In addition, FPAC also shared Spanish translations of the farm loan discovery and service center locator tools. FPAC is expanding financial partnerships with several groups to expand the number and type of service providers who can help maximize access to culturally appropriate languages. In FY22, FPAC filled 150 limited English proficiency requests, resulting in 723 products spanning 30 separate languages. FPAC currently has a contract in place to provide a full range of translation services in support of Agency technical assistance efforts.
    • In FY 2023, Rural Development (RD) has entered into a new contract with a new provider for telephone interpretation and document translation to assist RD customers who have limited English proficiency.
Selected Resources




Avon Standard, an urban farmer from Cleveland, Ohio (right, foreground) speaks to Terry Cosby, former state conservationist in Ohio (left, background) and others in Standard’s hoop house during an urban tour on his farm in 2016. Standard is the first urban farmer in Cleveland to apply for a high tunnel under Cleveland’s High Tunnel Initiative

2. Partnering with Trusted Technical Assistance Providers

USDA is partnering with trusted technical assistance providers to ensure that underserved producers and communities have the support they need to access USDA programs. For farm programs, this includes improved assistance and capacity for the skills involved in successful farm management, such as business planning, market development, financial knowledge, and others. For rural communities, the strategy is to help communities build the futures they envision, assisting them to navigate and access programs from across the federal government and other providers, secure technical assistance, and develop local capacity. Other programs require analogous strategies.

"RMA offers great tools for producers and getting the word out about them is just as important as having them available."
- Aisha Cruz-Reyes, Spanish Speaking Farmers, University of Texas Rio Grande, Texas

  • USDA expands access to traditional indigenous foods in schools. In November 2023 USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) announced it would open applications on for the Supporting the Use of Traditional Indigenous Foods in the Child Nutrition Programs Cooperative Agreement. FNS will award a total of $2 million in grants to four organizations – either led by or partnering with an Indigenous organization or tribe – to provide regionally focused training and technical assistance to school nutrition professionals. The training and technical assistance will focus on school food procurement, preparation, and crediting of traditional Indigenous foods. Funds may be used to support the use of traditional Indigenous foods in school lunch, school breakfast, summer meals, meals and snacks served to children after school, and culturally relevant nutrition education for students. Each of the cooperative agreements will be awarded in four different regions of the country to maximize the number of tribes being served. 
    • Cultivating the next generation of diverse U.S. agricultural professionals.  In June 2023, USDA announced the recipients of a $262.5 million investment in institutions of higher education to foster the next generation of diverse agricultural professionals across the nation. Created in the American Rescue Plan, the From Learning to Leading: Cultivating the Next Generation of Diverse Food and Agriculture Professionals (called “NextGen”) Program aims to lower USDA costs for American families, expand access to markets to producers from all backgrounds and communities, build a clean energy economy and strengthen American supply chains. The NextGen program, administered by NIFA, is part of USDA’s commitment to advancing equity across the Department and builds on steps taken under Secretary Vilsack’s direction to improve equity and access, eliminate barriers to its programs and services, and build a workforce more representative of America. This historic investment in our nation’s Minority-serving Institutions will provide training and support to more than 20,000 future food and agricultural leaders through 33 project partners.
  • Food and Agriculture Non-formal Education (FANE) program. In October 2023, NIFA invested $8.2 million in food and agricultural nonformal education. The Food and Agriculture Non-formal Education (FANE) program area priority within the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s Education and Workforce Development program area provides formal or non-formal education experiential learning for students to enter or gain skills applicable to the food and agriculture fields. These opportunities must be designed to help students develop the critical thinking, problem solving, digital competency, international experiences, and communication skills needed for future employment and/or higher education. Data science, including artificial intelligence, automation, and robotics — as well as gene editing and biotechnology — are supported in this program area priority.
  • Expanding equitable efforts to prevent and reduce food loss and waste. In September 2023, the Department invested $25 million to expand efforts to prevent and reduce food loss and waste. The investment, funded under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), is part of a joint agency initiative between USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist (OCE). Since 2017, NIFA has committed $123.5 million across 527 projects relating to food loss and waste. This latest investment will support funding of the Community Food Projects (CFP) Competitive Grants Program to reduce food loss and waste; get surplus wholesome food to individuals; and develop linkages between food producers, providers and food recovery organizations. CFP grants overall provide communities a voice in food system decisions and support local food markets to fully benefit the community, increase food and nutrition security, and stimulate local economies.
  • Boosting access to risk management education for underserved and organic producers. The Department awarded about $6.5 million to 22 organizations to educate underserved, small-scale, and organic producers on farm risk management and climate-smart farm practices. This funding from the Department's Risk Management Agency (RMA) will amplify outreach efforts through Risk Management Education (RME) partnerships in communities that historically have not had access to training about risk management options. RME partnerships are part of USDA’s broader efforts to ensure equity and access to programs. Organizations who have received funding to provide risk management education include nonprofits, historically black colleges and universities, and university extensions.
  • NIFA invests $15 million in 19 projects to support research and extension learning experiences. The Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates program promotes research and extension learning experiences for undergraduates to support career pathways into the food and agricultural science industries. Working to develop the next generation of research, education, and extension professionals in the food and agricultural sciences. As part of the 19 awarded projects, college and university faculty are supported to provide opportunities for underrepresented students, including those from economically disadvantaged groups and minority-serving institutions.
  • Partnership with Community College Alliance for Agriculture Advancement to Strengthen America’s Rural Workforce. Community colleges in the Midwest will receive resources and educational support to help advance careers in agriculture and rural economic development through a partnership with the Alliance for Agriculture Advancement. The Alliance aims to develop leadership and job skills through agency internships and networking opportunities as well as work to connect colleges with staff in state and local Rural Development offices. As a result of this partnership, rural communities across the country will be able to build the leaders and workforces they need to thrive.
  • Lowering energy costs for rural business owners and agricultural producers. In July 2023, the Rural Business-Cooperative Service announced $21 million in technical assistance grants will be available through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses access federal funds for renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements. This investment is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Investing in America Agenda to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses access federal funds for renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements, transform rural power production and spur economic growth.
  • Investing in the future of research at HBCUs. The department announced an investment of more than $33 million to support capacity-building efforts at 1890 Land-grant Universities. This investment, administered through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), will support 82 research, extension, and education projects across the nation’s 19 Historically Black Colleges and Universities designated as 1890 Land-grant Universities. These projects are part of NIFA’s 1890 Capacity Building Grants Program, which is designed to build capacity for teaching, research, and extension activities. Research investments will strengthen the quality and diversity of the nation’s higher-education workforce, bolster research and knowledge delivery systems, and equip 1890 Land-grant universities with the resources needed to better address emerging challenges and create new opportunities.
  • Empowering, investing and educating America's youth. In June 2023, NIFA's Youth Innovators Empowering Agriculture Across America (YEA) program, part of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), invested $39 million across five projects to support youth development projects that advance USDA’s priorities of addressing climate change via climate smart agriculture and forestry; advancing racial justice, equity, and opportunity; creating more and better market opportunities; tackling food and nutrition insecurity; and promoting workforce development.
  • USDA Launches the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Learning Network and Project Dashboard Resources. In April 2023, USDA announced the launch of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Learning Network. The Network includes all project partners; it will generate key lessons to inform what makes markets for climate-smart commodities successful and meaningful for farmers, forest landowners, and rural communities. As a result of the $3.1 billion Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities effort, USDA has finalized agreements for over 60 large pilot projects with grants ranging from $5 million to $90 million. Many of these projects have already started enrolling producers. Producers interested in participating are invited to visit the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Active Projects Dashboard to find projects in their areas. Additionally, USDA has been working to finalize agreements with another 71 smaller pilot projects that have an even greater emphasis on small and underserved producers and minority-serving institutions with more than 35 grants already finalized. These grants include support to fund efforts of groups like the National Black Growers Council, Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska and the InterTribal Buffalo Council, the University of Texas Rio Grande, Florida A&M University and Prairie View A&M University.
  • Conservation Efforts in Pacific Island Communities

    • In May 2023, NRCS announced an additional $1 million funding opportunity for agreements that more equitably address Pacific Island Area (PIA) specific conservation issues. By participating in the PIA Conservation Solutions program, accepted projects will receive technical assistance and resources to address local natural resource issues and develop conservation leadership initiatives at the state and community levels in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

    • In April 2023, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), announced that up to $500,000 is available for Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) in the Pacific Islands Area. CIG projects help stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies for agricultural production. This will help address challenges associated with climate change that farmers and ranchers need to overcome in order to develop more resilient food systems and better access to local nutrition in the Pacific Islands region. This group of projects must be carried out in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

  • Rural Development (RD) is leading the Rural Partners Network (RPN), an all-of-government place-based program that brings together 20 federal agencies and regional commissions to help rural communities access resources and funding to create jobs, build infrastructure, and support long-term economic stability on their own terms. Federal agencies and commissions are collaborating to improve how we provide resources to help rural people build the futures they envision. The RPN was launched in April 2022 and expanded in November 2022, to now include 36 community networks across 10 states and Puerto Rico. In May 2023, $394 million in awards were announced to provide loans and grants to support 52 projects to support long-term visions for strong, local economies.
  • In March 2023, RMA announced that it would invest $2 million to assist organizations serving underserved agricultural producers and communities with completing applications for funding opportunities. Through a Cooperative Agreement and grant application, RMA and its partners will provide technical and grant writing assistance.
  • American Rescue Plan Technical Assistance Cooperators. Underserved farmers and ranchers have historically lacked equitable access to knowledge and information that could aid them in accessing and navigating USDA programs. USDA is helping ensure that underserved farmers, ranchers, and foresters have the tools, programs and support they need to succeed in agriculture by investing over $100 million in American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funding in over 30 organizations to provide technical assistance connecting underserved producers with USDA programs and services. So far two cohorts of organizations have been selected for their proven track records working with underserved producer communities, such as veterans, new farmers, limited resource producers, and producers living in high-poverty areas. They are providing targeted support for producers to mitigate losing lands, develop sound business plans, expand revenues and their markets, and unlock access to capital.
    USDA’s Office of Customer Experience worked with Cohort 1 of NIFA’s Cooperators, awardees of funding under NIFA as part of the ARP 1006, to create the USDA CARES Partner Portal, a resource designed to help our partners access the information and tools that are most relevant to their work, and to support diverse USDA customers with targeted support.
  • NRCS Cooperative Agreements. Under American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Section 1006, in FY 2022, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) invested $50 million into their Racial Justice and Equity Conservation Cooperative Agreements. 118 cooperative agreements were created to fund two-year projects that support underserved farmers and ranchers with climate-smart agriculture and forestry by expanding the delivery of conservation assistance. On February 27, 2023, NRCS opened up a second round of cooperative agreement funding, of up to $70 million, seeking applications for two-year projects that encourage participation in NRCS programs, especially in underserved communities and among urban and small-scale producers.
  • 2501 Program Partners. Since 2010, the 2501 Program has awarded 615 grants totaling more than $194 million; 2501 Program partners provide problem-solving strategies that help underserved producers. Current grants focus on, for example, resolving heirs’ property issues, fostering financial literacy and business planning skills, and recouping losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is run by USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement. Recent grant cohorts include:
    • October 2022: $36 million awarded to 52 organizations
    • April 2023: $45 million opportunity announced; applications are due July 25, 2023.
    • October 2023: $27.6 Million to Support Underserved and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers
  • Access to wastewater solutions. In August 2022, Rural Development (RD) launched a partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the states of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, West Virginia, as well as the tribal nations of Santo Domingo Pueblo and San Carlos Apache, to create the Closing America’s Wastewater Access Gap Community Initiative. The new initiative is being piloted in 11 communities whose residents lack basic wastewater management essential to protecting their health and the environment. EPA and USDA are jointly providing technical assistance resources to help underserved communities identify and pursue federal funding opportunities—including from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—to address wastewater needs and eliminate harmful exposure to backyard sewage by conducting community wastewater assessments, developing solutions, identifying and pursuing funding, and building long-term capacity. This partnership is one of the ways USDA promotes a healthy community and environment by making sure families and children have clean water and safe sewer systems that prevent pollution and runoff.
  • Investments in Minority Serving Institutions. Numerous USDA mission areas, including Food Safety; Marketing and Regulatory Program; Trade and Foreign Agriculture Affairs; Research, Education, and Economics; and Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement are making investments in programs at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) to enlarge students’ access to curriculum, internships, and training that expand career opportunities in USDA-related fields; and leverage MSIs’ ability to provide technical assistance to assist underserved and veteran farmers to own and operate successful farms.
    • In October 2023, USDA invested $15.5 million in their Hispanic-serving Institutions (HSI) Education Grants Program. The HSI Education Grants Program, administered by USDA’s NIFA, promotes and strengthens the ability of these institutions to carry out higher education programs in food and agricultural sciences. Our nation’s 572 HSIs educate more than 5 million students every year and over 3 million are Hispanic.
    • In FY 2022, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) invested $14 million in Centers of Excellence at Land-grant Historically Black Colleges and Universities, funding six collaborative research centers focused on subjects ranging from rural prosperity and climate-smart technology, to food security, health, and nutrition. These investments will strengthen research, workforce development and extension programs that support underserved producers and communities.
    • NIFA awarded $302 million in FY 2022 to MSIs: $275 million in investments in 1890 Land-grant Universities (designated Historically Black Colleges and Universities), $19 million to Hispanic-Serving institutions, and $8.3 million to 1994 Land-grant Tribal Colleges. In FY 2023, approximately $62 million has been invested to date. Funding totals include American Rescue Plan investments that build capacity for teaching, research, and extension activities critical to USDA and USDA partners’ efforts to prepare students for careers in food, agriculture, and natural resources sciences.
    • In October 2023, the Department's National Institute of Food and Agriculture invested $3.6 million across five projects at three Land-grant Universities relating to youth and 4-H military programs.
  • Promoting diversity in agricultural economics. The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine reports a significant underrepresentation of minorities in science and engineering fields. In November 2022, USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) entered a new partnership with the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association to increase diversity in the field of agricultural economics. The goal is to expand the number of students from underrepresented groups who pursue advanced degrees and careers in agricultural economics, supporting a new generation of skilled professionals more representative of today’s society.
Selected Resources




Sue Ann Leighty (Habitat for Humanity), Billy & Nicole Dennis (Recipient), Jane Asselta (Rural Development State Director), Family Members

3. Directing USDA Programs to Those Who Need Them the Most

USDA programs are targeting those who need them the most, including by increasing infrastructure investments that benefit underserved communities. USDA’s mission is “To serve all Americans by providing effective, innovative, science-based public policy leadership in agriculture, food and nutrition, natural resource protection and management, rural development, and related issues with a commitment to deliverable equitable and climate-smart opportunities that inspire and help America thrive.” We cannot fulfill this change without directing programs to those who need them the most. As part of this commitment, USDA will make continue its historic infrastructure investments and will further embed environmental justice as part of our mission. Directing programs to develop policies and activities that ensure USDA investments benefit underserved rural and Tribal communities will also help strengthen communities’ ability to withstand the disproportionate effects of climate change.

"If it wasn’t for the internet, I couldn’t do my job."
- Matthew Muncy, Rural Resident. Kentucky, Beneficiary of Rural Development’s Broadband Program

“Through RD’s 502 Direct program I can say that this is a home we can afford; a place where we are able to have family and friends visit, as well as a place we can call home.”
- Mrs. Tsionatillo Thompson, educator at the Akwesasne Freedom School in the Mohawk Nation

  • Growing the rural economy. USDA and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced in November 2023 that they were strengthening their partnership to create jobs and economic growth in rural America. Through a memorandum of understanding (MOU), USDA and SBA are committing to increase investments in small and underserved communities to help grow the rural economy and create good-paying jobs for people nationwide.
  • Addressing climate change for underserved communities. In November 2023 USDA demonstrated its commitment to understanding and addressing the effects of climate change by  contributing to the Fifth U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA5). The NCA5 is a congressionally mandated report that analyzes the effects of climate change on sectors and regions across the U.S. economy. USDA’s contributions to the NCA5 highlight the effects of climate change on agriculture, forests, food systems, historically underserved communities, and natural resources. The NCA5 emphasizes the increasingly important role of adaptation in building resilience, and the role of the land sector in mitigating greenhouse gases. It demonstrates how climate change affects the livelihoods of USDA’s stakeholders and it provides examples of how land managers are changing their operations and practices in response to changing climate conditions.
  • Supporting Rural Communities. In November 2023, USDA announced over $5 billion in new investments to advance rural prosperity, economic development, competition, and sustainability. These investments include:
    • Nearly $1.7 billion in funding to support the adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices, which have direct climate mitigation benefits, advance a host of other environmental co-benefits, and offer farmers, ranchers and foresters new revenue streams.
    • $1.1 billion across 104 loan and grant awards to upgrade infrastructure in rural communities that will bring new jobs, clean water and fuel, and reliable electricity to people in nearly every state $2 billion across 99 economic development projects in Rural Partners Network (RPN) communities in nine states and Puerto Rico – funding that will create jobs and build infrastructure as well as increase access to quality health care, affordable housing, and clean water and energy.
    • Nearly $274 million across 16 grant and loan awards to expand access to high-speed internet for people living and working across eight states. USDA is announcing $145 million in funding for 700 loan and grant awards through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) to help agricultural producers and rural small business owners make energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy investments to lower energy costs, generate new income, and strengthen the resiliency of their operations.
  • Providing financial emergency relief to farmers and ranchers recovering from natural disaster losses. In September 2023, the Department began issuing more than $1.75 billion in emergency relief payments to eligible farmers and livestock producers to help farming and ranching operations recover following natural disasters in 2020, 2021 and 2022. These payments will be delivered through the Farm Service Agency's (FSA) Emergency Livestock Relief Program and phase two of its Emergency Relief Program. This additional assistance helps offset the tremendous losses that both rural and urban producers have faced due to drought, wildfire, and other natural disaster events.
  • Creating opportunity for farmers, ranchers and small businesses through a clean energy economy. The Department announced in August 2023 that it is awarding $266 million in loans and grants to agriculture producers and rural small businesses to make investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements that will lower their energy costs, generate new income, and strengthen the resilience of their operation. The award was made possible through Justice40 Initiative Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), as well as funding from the Inflation Reduction Act.
  • A year of progress through the Inflation Reduction Act. Signed by President Biden on August 16, 2022, The Inflation Reduction Act made possible the largest investment in climate action in history. Now one year later, the department takes a moment to reflect on the achievements and progress made by Investing in America. The inflation reduction act has worked to lower energy costs, provides economic opportunity to communities across the country, and tackle the climate crisis by investing in agriculture, forest restoration, and rural areas. The law increases access to lower cost clean energy and improves energy efficiency, expands climate-smart agriculture and conservation while creating well-paying jobs. The legislation has also worked to fortify communities against the increasing risks of wildfires and extreme heat. This historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the American Rescue Plan, and other investments already underway make the Inflation Reduction Act a once-in-a-generation investment that helps rural communities adapt to climate change and improve their health outcomes while supporting rural infrastructure and infrastructure needs. The Inflation Reduction Act is creating a future that is more equitable, sustainable, and full of opportunity for farmers, ranchers and rural Americans.
  • Investing in Education at Alaska Native-Serving and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions. NIFA announced a $3 million investment as part of the Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Institutions Education Competitive Grants Program (ANNH) to support projects that will improve educational equity for underrepresented students, strengthen educational resources and promote community development programs. Approved projects will help preserve and perpetuate the Alaska Native Iñupiaq language, increase food and agricultural literacy for youth and adults in Hawaii, and prepare students for careers in food, agriculture, and natural resources by offering a certificate-based farmer training program that provides an experiential education pathway for adult learners.
  • Advancing clean energy across rural America. In May 2023, the Biden-Harris Administration announced nearly $11 billion in grants and loan opportunities that will help rural energy and utility providers bring affordable, reliable clean energy to their communities across the country. As part of allocated funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, this financial commitment created two new programs, Empowering Rural America (“New Era”) and Powering Affordable Clean Energy (PACE). These programs will make it more accessible for vulnerable, disadvantaged, Tribal and energy communities to afford clean energy to heat their homes, run their businesses and power their cars, schools, hospitals and more. In September 2023, on the heels of the Inflation Reduction Act’s first anniversary, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has seen record interest in the conservation and clean energy programs that received funding from the law. USDA announced the availability of over $17 billion, or 45% of the 10-year total of Inflation Reduction Act funding, for new and existing programs and has already put significant resources directly into the pockets of farmers and small business owners. Through letters of interest for the new ERA program, the Department received 157 proposals from nearly every state and Puerto Rico for more than 750 high-quality clean energy projects seeking to serve the most in need and provide relief to rural Americans, create new investment in rural communities and invest in cleaner air and a more stable climate.
  • Expanding access to healthcare in rural communities. Made possible through the American Rescue Plan Act, the department is awarding $129 million in Emergency Rural Health Care Grants to improve health care facilities in rural towns across the nation. These grants will help 172 rural health care organizations expand critical services and provide expanded access to healthcare for more than 5 million people in 39 states. As a result of these investments, regional partnerships, public bodies, nonprofits, and Tribes will be able to address rural health care challenges, building a more sustainable rural health care system for small towns and communities across the nation.
  • Discrimination Financial Assistance Program. On July 7, 2023, the Department announced the opening of the financial assistance application process for eligible farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who experienced discrimination in USDA farm lending programs prior to January 2021. Section 22007 of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) directed USDA to provide this assistance, and provided $2.2 billion for it. USDA launched the Discrimination Financial Assistance Program website to provide an overview of the program, information about eligibility, deadlines, and instructions in how to apply; a fact sheet combats misleading information. The application period is open until October 31, 2023.
  • Restoring wetlands, watersheds and fortifying underserved communities. The Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) project, part of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), announced a $17 million investment to bring together partners and landowners to restore critical wetland functions to agricultural landscapes. In partnership with Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the program aims to support broader efforts to mitigate climate change by restoring wetlands while also prioritizing assistance to underserved communities. NRCS is funding five proposals that prioritize high-impact projects and assistance to underserved farmers and ranchers, through five new WREP projects including in the Arkansas/Mississippi Alluvial Valley, Texas Panhandle, and Missouri Bootheel.
  • Investing in Emergency Watershed Protection for communities. USDA is investing $265 million in 28 Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) infrastructure projects across 16 states impacted by extreme weather events. The investment will help communities recover from natural disasters and prepare for future disasters through the development of watershed infrastructure, optional buyouts in in Limited Resource Areas (where housing values and income are less than a state’s average and unemployment is at least twice the U.S. average), and other related projects. NRCS announced the EWP Buyout Option in limited resource areas within the states of Florida and West Virginia as well as for select communities that are impacted by constant flooding or severe erosion due to a natural disasters. An interactive map has been developed to see communities designated as Limited Resource Areas.
  • Improving water quality and addressing ground water depletion. NRCS's Regional Conservationist Partnership Program (RCPP) announced critical financial assistance for producers in Kansas’s’ South Fork Republican River (SFRR) watershed who are eligible to receive financial assistance under the RCPP Program. The project will provide funding to landowners along the river to address plant pest pressure, groundwater depletion, and water quality issues. Additionally, to better fortify community and producer resources, as needed, the RCPP project may also provide funds for alternate water sources for livestock, prescribed grazing, and other practices.
  • Women Of Wildlife Services (WOWS) Outreach: WOWS, a dedicated outreach program under the Wildlife Services program, took part in the Wildlife Service New York Program State Meeting held from April 4th to 6th, 2023. As part of the meeting, WOWS Administrator Lanna Rogers represented APHIS WOWS and delivered a talk on the theme of "Women in Wildlife." By highlighting the contributions and experiences of women in the field of wildlife services, APHIS WOWS promotes gender equity and provides a platform for women to share their expertise and perspectives.
  • Seeking to increase conservation efforts, enhance public lands access, and improve infrastructure while creating thousands of jobs. In May 2023, the Departments of Agriculture and Interior’s proposed FY 2024 budgets sought $2.8 billion in investments to enhance public lands access, address essential and deferred infrastructure maintenance projects, and support conservation efforts across the country. Authorized by the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), the budget includes recreation opportunities to be provided across the country, significant natural areas and cultural heritage sites to be protected, and grants to states and local governments to support conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the country. This will include addressing infrastructure projects that are essential for communities that rely on Forest Service roads to get to schools, stores, and hospitals. Learn more about the associated programs:

  • Access to Trees and Green Spaces in Disadvantaged Urban Communities. On April 12, 2023, the Biden-Harris Administration announced $1 billion in grants to increase equitable access to trees and green spaces in urban and community forests. This investment will enable the Forest Service to support projects to improve public health, increase access to nature, and deliver economic and ecological benefits to cities, towns and tribal communities across the country. In September 2023, the Forest Service selected 385 grant proposals. The funding was granted to entities in all 50 states, two U.S. territories, three U.S. affiliated Pacific islands, and several Tribes through the Forest Service's Urban and Community Forestry Program. Funding is covered by the Justice40 Initiative and made possible by President the Inflation Reduction Act – the largest climate investment in history.
  • D-SNAP for Low-income Residents in Disaster Stricken Areas. Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) provides vital essential food assistance to residents struggling with the aftermath of severe storms and tornadoes. To be eligible for D-SNAP, a household must either live or work in an identified disaster area, have been affected by the disaster, and meet certain D-SNAP eligibility criteria. Eligible households will receive one month of benefits – equal to the maximum monthly amount for a SNAP household of their size. Recent coverage includes:
  • Helping distressed farm loan borrowers. Kicking off a multi-tier process under Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) Section 22006 to provide assistance to distressed farm loan borrowers, the Farm Service Agency expedited assistance to borrowers whose farm operations were at financial risk, with the goal of keeping them farming and promoting their long-term stability. This work accompanies ongoing efforts to improve farm lending programs with a focus on proactive loan service and support to keep farmers farming.
    • In October 2022 the Farm Service Agency (FSA) provided nearly $800 million in assistance to delinquent direct and guaranteed farm loan borrowers and borrowers who had their farms foreclosed on and still had remaining debt.
    • In March 2023, USDA announced $123 million in additional assistance.
    • In May 2023, USDA announced an additional $130 million in automatic financial assistance. The FSA will begin reviewing individual distressed borrower assistance requests from direct loan borrowers who missed a recent installment or are unable to make their next scheduled installment.
    • In August 2023 USDA announced they will be providing additional, automatic financial assistance for qualifying guaranteed Farm Loan Programs (FLP) borrowers who are currently facing financial risk.
  • USDA Invests to Improve Renewal Energy Infrastructure. $10 million will be granted by Rural Development under the Rural Energy Pilot Program (REPP) to support solutions to address high energy costs and pollution through renewable energy systems. A portion of the awarded funds may also be used for community energy planning, capacity building, technical assistance, efficiency and weatherization to help rural and historically underserved communities.
    • On April 11, 2023, the Biden Harris administration announced an investment of $6.6 million to help people living in rural towns develop community-sized renewable energy projects that will help them lower their energy costs and create jobs; this followed an earlier announcement that $1.1 million would be awarded to a Puerto Rican community under the same program.
  • Rural investments where they are most needed. In 2022, informed by its new systems to better direct investments where they are needed most, RD invested over $5 billion in underserved rural communities for projects such as expanding access to housing, water infrastructure, and high-speed internet.
  • In support of its 10-Year Wildfire Strategy, in FY22 the Forest Service (FS) integrated consideration of social vulnerability in assessments of vulnerability to wildfire risk to promote effective, equitable implementation of wildfire risk reduction. In March 2023, Forest Service invested nearly $200 million to reduce wildfire risk to communities across state, private, and tribal lands; 100 project proposals benefit 22 states and seven Tribes, as part of the Community Wildfire Defense Grant program.
  • Agricultural research where it’s most needed. On March 21, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced an investment of more than $9.4 million for 12 projects through the Urban, Indoor, and Other Emerging Agricultural Production Research, Education and Extension Initiative. This initiative provides grants for research and education to solve key problems of urban, indoor and emerging agricultural systems.
  • Ensuring Equitable Pandemic Assistance. Under the previous administration’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), only 4 percent of funding went to socially disadvantaged farmers (among those who identified their race and/or ethnicity). After identifying gaps in previous COVID-19 relief funding, USDA announced Pandemic Assistance for Producers, a newly established initiative committed to distributing and directing resources more equitably, especially to the people and sectors who need assistance the most. Among other funding opportunities, the Pandemic Assistance Initiative includes re-opening signup for CFAP2; $700 million in grants to provide relief to farm and food workers affected by COVID-19; $700 million to provide relief for small producers, processors, farmers markets, and seafood vessels affected by COVID-19; and $2 million to establish partnerships with organizations to provide outreach and technical assistance to historically underserved farmers and ranchers. CFAP2 saw an approximately 21 percent increase of CFAP enrollment applications from socially disadvantaged producers. More recently, FSA announced that it would be making automatic Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2) top-up payments to underserved producers.
  • The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Agricultural Management Assistance Program provides funding for eligible producers in sixteen states where participation in the Federal Crop Insurance Program is historically low. Producers may construct or improve water management structures or irrigation structures; plant trees for windbreaks or to improve water quality; and mitigate risk through production diversification or resource conservation practices, including soil erosion control, integrated pest management, or transition to organic farming. Applications involving projects that benefit historically underserved communities receive higher rankings.
  • In FY22, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) invested $3 million to create a new program priority area, Rapid Response to Extreme Weather Events Across Food and Agricultural Systems, to address emergent needs following disasters and extreme weather events. In its inaugural year, NIFA awarded funding to projects that responded to drought, wildfire, floods, and hurricanes. Projects focused on commodities and opportunities important to underserved farmers, ranchers, and communities.
  • Improving safe, healthy work environments for farmworkers. In coordination with other federal agencies, in June 2022, USDA announced a pilot program utilizing up to $65 million in American Rescue Plan funding to provide support for agricultural employers in implementing robust health and safety standards to promote a safe, healthy work environment for both U.S. workers and workers hired from Northern Central American countries under the seasonal H-2A visa program. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) conducted three listening sessions in September 2022 to receive input from agricultural employer organizations, labor unions, farmworker advocates, farmworkers, and other relevant stakeholders. In September 2023, USDA announced that agricultural employers can begin to apply for the Farm Labor Stabilization and Protection Pilot Program (FLSP Program). The FLSP Program will help address current workforce needs in agriculture, reduce irregular migration, including from Northern Central America through the expansion of regular pathways, and improve working conditions for farmworkers.
  • USDA has 65 programs (PDF, 211 KB) that are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice 40 initiative, which has set an all-of-government goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments flow to communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution.
  • Including women in agricultural and STEM. Through the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Food for Progress Program, USDA proactively works with potential award recipients to design projects to promote the inclusion of women in agriculture businesses and STEM, through training and new technologies, in developing countries and emerging democracies. All active awards require award recipients to include explicit efforts in their projects to promote women in agricultural business opportunities and to report on their progress.
  • Emergency Rental Assistance. In 2021, USDA’s Rural Housing Service (RHS) allocated $100 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Emergency Rental Assistance to approximately 27,000 rent-overburdened tenants living in USDA Multi-Family Housing properties. RHS estimates that approximately 67% of tenants living in USDA Multi-Family properties are elderly or disabled. Additionally, RHS estimates that 30-40% of tenants living in USDA Multi-Family properties are people of color.
  • Support for producers with disabilities. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture is currently investing $13 million in AgrAbility funds to support projects in 21 states. The program provides vital education, assistance, and support to farmers and ranchers with disabilities. Throughout its 30-year history, the program has provided direct, on-site services to more than 13,600 people.
  • Vaccine education where it’s needed. The EXCITE program (PDF, 253 KB) works by cooperative agreement between the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Cooperative Extension System (CES) to deliver vaccine education to hard-to-reach communities across the nation. The program is particularly effective in rural, minority and Native American communities. In FY 2022, EXCITE projects were active in almost every state as well as on 17 Native American reservations. These projects focused on reaching rural and medically underserved communities. At the end of year two of the EXCITE initiative, 19,586,347 contacts have been reached through 178,228 engagement activities, according to the EXCITE annual report.
Selected Resources




Groceries being handed to a person in a vehicle

4. Expanding Equitable Access to USDA Nutrition Assistance Programs

USDA is expanding equitable access to USDA nutrition assistance programs to ensure that those who qualify are able to participate, those who participate get benefits that are meaningful, and those who receive those benefits can use them conveniently and in ways that promote improvements in their health and well-being.

“Ensuring low-income families have access to a healthy diet helps prevent disease, supports children in the classroom, reduces health care costs, and more. And the additional money families will spend on groceries helps grow the food economy, creating thousands of new jobs along the way.”
- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

“I take great pride in the role the WIC program plays in bringing greater health equity to people in our country."
- Cheryl Kennedy, Mountain Plains Regional Administrator

  • Increasing food access for families in the summer. USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is offering a new, permanent summer nutrition assistance program for children, known as Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer— one of many strategies the agency is leveraging to tackle child hunger when schools are closed. Through Summer EBT, states, territories, and tribal nations can provide grocery benefits to families with eligible school-aged children during the summer months. USDA tested Summer EBT as a demonstration project in select states and tribal nations over multiple years. Rigorous evaluations showed that providing these benefits decreased the number of kids with very low food security by about one-third and supported healthier diets. Once implemented nationwide, Summer EBT is expected to benefit more than 29 million children, reducing food insecurity and helping kids get the nutrition they need to grow, learn, and thrive.
  • Proposed updates to the school nutrition standards. In 2023 USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is proposing updates to the school nutrition standards in a few key areas to give kids the right balance of nutrients for healthy and appealing meals. The proposed updates reflect the most recent Dietary Guidelines, as required by law, and build in plenty of time for planning and implementation to ensure the school meals community and the kids they serve have the best chance for long-term success. This proposed rule - Child Nutrition Programs: Revisions to Meal Patterns Consistent with the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans - is the next step in an ongoing effort toward healthier school meals that USDA and the broader school meals community have been partnering on for well over a decade. 
  • Championing equitable access to quality and efficiency for SNAP participants. Process and Technology Improvement Grants (PTIGs) support efforts by state agencies and their community-based and faith-based partners to develop and implement projects that use technology to improve the quality and efficiency of SNAP application and eligibility determination systems. Additionally, the grants build on FNS’s commitment to modernizing programs, reducing administrative burdens, and piloting new online tools and technologies that can provide a simple, seamless and secure customer experience.
  • Combatting Diet-Related Diseases in Underserved Communities. In September 2023, the Department launched a pilot Nutrition Hub under the Agricultural Science Center of Excellence for Nutrition and Diet for Better Health (ASCEND for Better Health) initiative. Following the Climate Hubs model, the Nutrition Hub, informed by community conversations, will be an engine for providing science-based, nutrition-related information at the community level, particularly in underserved communities disproportionately impacted by diet-related chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Future hubs will concentrate their efforts on additional high-need communities. The hub is being launched in partnership with Southern University, a historically black 1890 Land-grant University in Louisiana, and host of the USDA-funded 1890 Center of Excellence for Nutrition, Health, Wellness and Quality of Life.
  • Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program. Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) established the Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program (LFS) to help states deal with challenges of supply chain distributions. In September 2023, AMS signed a cooperative agreement with Maine for $776,210 to increase their purchase of nutritious, local foods for school meal programs. Through this program, the Maine Department of Education (DOE) will purchase and distribute local and regional foods and beverages for schools to serve children through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. These products will be healthy and unique to their geographic area, with the goal of improving child nutrition and building new relationships between schools and local farmers.
  • Investing in a diverse WIC workforce to better serve WIC Families. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it has awarded a cooperative agreement to support the development of the public health workforce in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). The effort is intended to improve WIC participants' health by increasing the diversity and cultural competency of the WIC workforce. This includes the recruitment and hiring of diverse dietitians and nutritionists that can best serve the diverse range of WIC families. The department recognizes how important it is for WIC staff to reflect the WIC families they serve and to truly understand the unique needs of the program’s diverse participants.
  • Incentivizing fruit and vegetable purchases for SNAP participants. In June 2023, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service announced that Colorado, Louisiana, and Washington will receive a total of $25 million to establish an electronic healthy incentives pilot (eHIP) program to make it easier for SNAP households to access fruits and vegetables. The eHIP pilots aim to test incentive models that reduce administrative costs, allowing more incentive dollars to reach SNAP participants.
  • Supporting school meal programs and emergency food operations. In June 2023, USDA announced $2.3 billion in support of school meal programs and emergency food operations. With funding made available through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation, the Department will provide nearly $1.3 billion for states to purchase foods to be distributed to schools for their meal programs and nearly $1 billion for states to order commodities from USDA vendors for emergency food providers, including food banks and community kitchens, as they face high demand and supply chain disruptions. The investment is part of USDA’s continued efforts to make nutritious food grown by American producers more accessible for families and students nationwide.
  • Increasing access to locally grown fresh produce. The Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program (LFPA) uses cooperative agreements to provide up to $900 million of American Rescue Plan (ARP) and Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funding for state, tribal and territorial governments to purchase foods produced within the state or within 400 miles of the delivery destination to help support local, regional, and underserved producers. Since its launch, USDA has signed cooperative agreements to support food sovereignty with the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, community and pollinator gardens in New Jersey, four community garden projects within Philadelphia's metropolitan area under the People's Garden Initiative (PGI), and Arizona's purchase and distribution of locally grown, produced, and processed food from underserved producers.
    • To increase access to locally grown fresh produce, NRCS announced in June 2023 a grant opportunity of $75,000 available for communities in New Jersey to establish community and pollinator gardens. The project aims to provide conservation learning experiences to urban communities, improve access to healthy and affordable food at the local level, enhance biodiversity, reduce the urban heat island effect, and increase participation among historically underserved urban farmers.
    • Aimed at increasing access to fresh produce and community education, in June 2023 four community garden projects within Philadelphia's metropolitan area, have been awarded funding under the People's Garden Initiative (PGI). The projects selected support collaborative community-based food-producing gardens using sustainable practices with a variety of educational components. Aspects of the awarded projects include urban and suburban farming, environmental education initiatives, hands-on workshops, plant care training, school gardens and cooking education, nutrition education, indoor edible gardens and the development of new community green spaces.
  • Promoting nutritional health, self-sufficiency, and well-being through education. The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) was founded in 1969 as the nation’s first nutrition education program for low-income populations; it remains at the forefront of nutrition education efforts to reduce nutrition insecurity of low-income families and youth today. Recently, EFNEP along with Growing Together Montana provided grants to Master Gardeners and communities to start, convert or maintain gardens for the purpose of donating fruits and vegetables to food pantries or other organizations. Over half of the six projects that received funding were located within or bordering an Indigenous community. In total, 8,200 individuals gained access to fresh garden produce through the 28 partner agencies that distributed produce donations. The program with Fort Peck Tribes had 1,637 hours of volunteer labor ($41,300) and $55,000 of in-kind and donated equipment support. The result was 4,695 pounds of fresh food supporting hundreds of households and two new community gardens. Locally grown garden produce led to several food tasting events including a chili tasting, three using the garden produce, and a salsa tasting with produce in a kit to make their own salsa.
  • Equitable Access to Healthy Food. On March 2, 2023, USDA’s Economic Research Service announced a partnership with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to improve equitable access to healthy foods by administering $1.4 million in new research grants to 14 research institutions. By February 2025, this collective will expand research on food policy, food retail markets, consumer behaviors related to food purchases and diet and USDA’s nutrition assistance programs. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will connect this diverse set of researchers to ERS’ Consumer Food Data System (CFDS) to help inform and enhance future policy on food and health.
  • Supporting access to a nutritious, practical, budget-conscious diet. To reflect the true price of a cost-conscious, healthy diet today, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) re-evaluated the Thrifty Food Plan, which forms the basis of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. As a result, in FY22, SNAP benefits increased by about 21 percent on average—about $1.19 per person, per day. According to the Urban Institute, the increase to SNAP benefits kept 2.3 million people out of poverty, reducing overall poverty by 4.7 percent and child poverty by 8.6 percent.
  • Addressing children’s food insecurity. Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) approved Pandemic-Electronic Benefits Transfer plans in 53 states and territories in FY22. Through these plans, states delivered over $18 billion in food assistance to more than 35 million children whose access to meals at school or in childcare was compromised during the school year by the COVID health emergency, and who faced increased food insecurity during the summer months.
  • Improving emergency food assistance. The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) Reach and Resiliency grants provide state agencies with an opportunity to re-envision how they can work with organizations to expand TEFAP’s reach into remote, rural, tribal, and/or low-income areas that are underserved by the program. In FY2022 and FY2023, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) awarded nearly $100 million in TEFAP Reach & Resiliency grants to state agencies.
    • In June 2022, the first $39.5 million of grant funding was awarded to support projects such as: professional studies and assessments of TEFAP’s reach to inform improvements; cultural competency training for eligible recipient agency staff; expanded mobile distribution infrastructure; critical freezing and cooling investments in rural areas; and targeted outreach activities in tribal areas.
    • In June 2023, $58.5 million of grant funding was awarded to support projects such as: repairing aging infrastructure, upgrading racking and storage systems, buying food distribution vehicles, improving warehouse efficiency and delivery capacity, and establishing new distribution sites.
  • Improving online food access. In June 2023, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) celebrated the availability of online shopping in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in all 50 states. As of latest data in April 2023, nearly 3.7 million SNAP households shopped online, up from 35,000 households in March 2020. For WIC, FNS is working with the Gretchen Swanson Center to pilot online shopping in five states. FNS is also making available waivers and funding to support other states in moving toward online shopping.
  • Modernizing SNAP. On March 8, 2023, FNS announced partnership with Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Oklahoma to pilot mobile payment technology. SNAP participants in these states will have the ability to use mobile payment options to complete Point of Sale transactions. The mobile payment pilots are one of many actions FNS is taking to modernize SNAP. FNS is also making available waivers and funding to support other states in moving toward online shopping.
    • In October 2023, the Department announced that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, households will have added protection from stolen benefits through Sep. 30, 2024, as the agency officially approved all SNAP state agencies’ plans for replacing benefits stolen via card cloning and other similar crimes. This is a vital and necessary step in ensuring victims of fraudulent activities continue to have access to food. USDA acknowledges the hardships faced by victims of SNAP fraud and is determined to support them while simultaneously combating fraud at its root source.
  • Modernizing WIC. Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is modernizing the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. In modernizing WIC, there’s a focus on connecting more eligible families to WIC and strengthening service delivery to support better maternal and child health outcomes, with a focus on addressing disparities in program delivery. As part of this modernization, there is a careful investment in technology in applying for the program, interacting with staff, receiving benefits, accessing nutrition education, and shopping options. Both WIC and FMNP provide participants with access to fresh fruits and vegetables, while supporting local farmers, farmers’ markets, and American agriculture.
    • In May 2023, FNS and the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) awarded $16 million in subgrants to 36 projects aimed at testing innovative outreach strategies to increase participation and equity in WIC. The WIC Community Innovation and Outreach Project (WIC CIAO) aims to expand partnerships with community organizations and use community-level data to develop and implement innovative WIC outreach strategies.
    • For the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, USDA is supporting modernization and expansion efforts with $50 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Food System Transformation funds. Support for the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program is part of a larger effort to modernize WIC, also funded through ARPA, with one round of grant funding awarded in FY2022 and a second announced April 2023. States can apply for project funding to improve online shopping, mobile access and support, and acceptance of electronic payments in the WIC Farmers Market nutrition programs.
    • FNS has also developed a multifaceted five-year national WIC workforce strategy that will recruit and train WIC employees to best serve WIC families. On February 16, 2023, USDA announced an investment of $750,000 to strengthen workforce diversity, which is expected to increase cultural competency and culturally responsive care in WIC, in turn increasing participation and improving the health of participants.
  • Making WIC more flexible. Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) published a proposed rule on November 21, 2022, to revise regulations governing the foods prescribed to participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. The proposed changes are intended to provide WIC participants with a wider variety of foods that align with the latest nutritional science as well as provide WIC State agencies with greater flexibility to prescribe and tailor food packages that accommodate participants’ special dietary needs and personal and cultural food preferences.
  • Investing in School Meals to Support Healthy Kids. In March 2023, USDA expanded support for access to school meal programs by awarding $50 million in grants. The department also announced $10 million in grants for schools to expand nutrition education, and proposed regulatory changes giving more schools the option to provide free healthy meals to students. In May 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced it signed a cooperative agreement with Nebraska for more than $1.4 million to increase their purchase of nutritious, local foods for school meal programs.
    • In August 2023, as part of a partnership with Action for Healthy Kids, the Department announced an investment of nearly $30 million to boost school nutrition in 264 small and rural communities. Up to $150,000 will be provided to each small and/or rural school district to enhance the nutritional quality of their meals and modernize their operations, including implementing innovative staff training programs, renovating school kitchens, redesigning food preparation and service spaces, and other school-led initiatives to support school nutrition and school meals.
    • In September 2023, the Department announced it was giving an estimated 3,000 more school districts in high-need areas the option to serve breakfast and lunch to all students at no cost, by expanding the availability of the Community Eligibility Provision, commonly known as CEP. Through CEP, school districts receive federal funding based on a formula using existing data from SNAP and other programs, and local or state funds must fill any gap between program costs and federal support.
    • In October 2023, the Department unveiled two new grant opportunities plus a training and technical assistance partnership to help schools continue to invest in nutritious school meals. USDA is partnering with the Urban School Food Alliance to provide trainings and tools to school districts that will help them purchase high quality foods, while keeping costs low. The Department's USDA Farm to School Grants will support local child nutrition programs in serving more fresh and local foods. Additionally, the School Food Systems Transformation Challenge Sub-Grants, part of USDA’s Healthy Meals Incentives Initiative, will fund projects promoting innovation in the school meals marketplace through collaboration between schools, food producers and suppliers, including local producers and small and disadvantaged businesses.
  • Improving SNAP administration. In April 2021, USDA began to provide States with $1.135 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to support and enhance their administration of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP), including investing in technology to improve access to SNAP benefits, exploring opportunities to better reach vulnerable populations, and improving reporting on program outcomes to enable data-driven decision making.
  • Expanding access to food in emergency shelters. In April 2021, USDA expanded eligibility for homeless young adults under the age of 25 to be able to receive meals at emergency shelters participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to reach the most vulnerable populations experiencing food hardship due to the pandemic under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
  • Increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has expanded the scope of Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program’s (GusNIP) Produce Prescription and Nutrition Incentive programs, which encourages families and individuals to eat more healthfully by increasing low-income families’ access to fresh fruits and vegetables. In November 2022, NIFA announced a $59.4 million investment. In November 2023, USDA announced an investment of more than $52 million to support efforts across three National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) competitive grant programs that make up the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP).
  • Improving lives, globally. USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program provides school meals and technical assistance aimed at reducing hunger, increasing literacy, and improving the health and dietary practices of school-aged children globally.
    • In FY 2022, USDA selected eight proposed projects valued at $220 million to be funded over the four- to five-year term of the projects, anticipating reaching over a million direct beneficiaries. In support of reducing hunger and increasing literacy rates, McGovern-Dole funding helps improve school infrastructure. (In Rwanda, schools supported by McGovern-Dole have constructed new kitchens, food storage rooms, and energy saving cookstoves. Similar construction of energy efficient cookstoves has taken place in Liberia and Cambodia, among other countries.)
    • In FY 2023, the Department invested $455 million to strengthen global food security and international capacity-building efforts. With this FY 2023 funding, the McGovern-Dole Program remains the largest donor to global school feeding programs, supporting national programs in low- and middle-income countries. The Department also awarded $225 million in international development projects under the Food for Progress Program to help improve agricultural productivity and expand trade of agricultural products.
  • Non-discrimination in nutrition programs. In September 2022, FNS reaffirmed that its nutrition programs are open to all eligible people, making clear that the agency’s non-discrimination statement, which applies across all our programs, includes gender identity and sexual orientation. FNS also issued guidance that makes clear if an LGBTQ+ individual experiences discrimination by or within a federal nutrition assistance program, they have an avenue to file an antidiscrimination complaint.
Selected Resources




"The reality is most people in America work in and with small business.   ...That most of the work of building and supporting the economy is done by small business owners. During the pandemic ... it was small business that kept us afloat."  – Secretary Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture

5. Advancing Equity in Federal Procurement

USDA is advancing equity in Federal procurement, by, underserved and disadvantaged businesses, unfamiliar with contracting, the tools, and resources available to increase access to funding opportunities and expand their network to develop critical local, State, regional, and National relationships. Additionally, USDA is collaborating with Federal partners to administer a no-cost business development series, entitled a “Path to Prosperity”, to provide un-banked and under-banked small businesses, communities, and individuals useful information, tools, resources, and opportunities through financial literacy and access to capital to generate economic growth and prosperity.

"USDA is committed to ensuring that small businesses of all types have the knowledge and opportunity to prosper, create jobs and stimulate their local economies."
- Malcom A. Shorter, USDA’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Administration

  • USDA launched its Procurement Forecast website, located at Forecast of Business Opportunities. With this tool, small businesses can easily search and filter USDA procurement forecasts, identify the opportunities most relevant to them, and download the results for easy reference. Already accessible to users is the forecast data for fiscal years 2023 to 2025. The new tool dramatically improves data transparency, increases accuracy, provides additional options for data fields, and allows for more frequent updates.
  • Supporting small businesses. USDA is supporting small business growth and helping small business owners build generational wealth throughout the United States, including for firms owned by underrepresented individuals. This Department-wide work is led by USDA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) (PDF, 1.3 MB), which rolled out a new small business landing page to make resources and opportunities easier to access and understand. An annual procurement forecast is now published on the OSDBU website to allow small businesses to plan for upcoming opportunities.
  • Achieving results. As announced in the Department’s 2022 Equity Action Plan, USDA implemented a 21.5% Small Disadvantaged Business contracting goal for FY 2021; the table below shows that goal was met and surpassed. In FY 2022, the new goal of 21.3 percent was, likewise, met and surpassed.

USDA Small Business Goals and Results, FY 2020-2022


Women-owned Small Businesses

Small Disadvantaged Business

Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business

HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone)

All Small Businesses

Overall Federal Goal


11% (5% in 2020)




FY 2020 Results






FY 2021 Results






FY 2022 Results (preliminary)






  • Mission area progress. The Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) Acquisitions Division has a Small Business Coordinator who works with small businesses, including those that are socially or economically disadvantaged, to identify potential contracting opportunities. These include opportunities available through existing statutory programs that authorize various types of competitive small business set-asides, as well as sole-source contracting authorities, such as the Section 8(a) Business Development program. The coordinator makes thousands of contacts with small businesses, participates in numerous internal and external outreach events, and hosts multiple FPAC outreach events each year. Because of these and other efforts, in FY 2022, 48.8% of FPAC’s contracting was with firms in the Small and Disadvantaged Business category.
  • Expanding producer access to child nutrition programs. Equity in procurement is a goal for the programs USDA funds as well as USDA’s own purchases. In the 2023 Farm to School Census, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will include new questions to identify characteristics of the producers that the School Food Authorities (SFA) purchase from, including whether they are minority- or women-owned businesses. Additionally, FNS has worked with the National Center for Appropriate Technology and the National Farm to School Network to develop and disseminate a producer-focused farm-to-school training curriculum designed to help agricultural producers build their capacity to launch or expand sales of their products to Child Nutrition Programs.
  • Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) entered into a cooperative agreement with the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) for a project to examine equitable access in Child Nutrition (CN) Programs. As part of this project FRAC will award sub-grants to organizations to identify barriers to equitable access in CN programs and strategies to help overcome those barriers.
Selected Resources




USDA Hall of Tribal Nations

6. Upholding General Federal Trust and Treaty Responsibilities to Indian Tribes

USDA is upholding general Federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Indian Tribes, removing barriers to access USDA programs, embracing Tribal self-determination principles, and incorporating indigenous values and perspectives in program design and delivery.

“We are at a unique moment in time where we can make a positive difference in the relationships between the federal government and Tribal Nations across the country. We do this by building trust and demonstrating our commitment to uphold our trust and treaty responsibilities to Indian Tribes with concrete actions.”
- Forest Service Chief Randy Moore


USDA has restored and empowered a free-standing Office of Tribal Relations, which is collaborating with agencies on work that fits broadly into three areas: 1) Removing the unique barriers to Indigenous and Tribal access to USDA programs and services, 2) Promoting Tribal self-determination throughout USDA, and 3) Adapting USDA’s programs to include Tribal/Indigenous values and perspectives. For many more achievements on this commitment, read the 2022 USDA Tribal Accomplishments (PDF, 229 KB).

  • “Sovereignty Gardens” children’s educational animated series. In November 2023 USDA announced series of short educational shows will help build excitement and pride with children about using Indigenous knowledge in gardening, food sovereignty, traditional foods, and healthy eating habits. “Sovereignty Gardens” uses animation and puppetry to follow Stompy the buffalo and his friend Bran through a series of learning adventures, which include cameos by Indigenous and scientific leaders. USDA Office of Tribal Relations entered into a cooperative agreement with Dr. Lee Francis (Pueblo of Laguna) (Indigi-Nerd/Native Realities) to create this animated series
  • Indigenous knowledge research track winners. In November 2023 USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations, in partnership with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), announces the first students selected for the newly launched AISES research track celebrating the intersection of Indigenous knowledge (IK) and western science and engineering. Selected students will carry out research projects studying topics such as ethnobotany, mental health, and traditional medicine. This year’s cohort will be the first in a three-year series. 
  • New Forest Corps national service opportunity for native youth. In November 2023 USDA announced AmeriCorps and U.S. Forest Service launched Forest Corps – a five-year $15 million agreement, and the first major interagency partnership under President Biden’s American Climate Corps. Beginning Summer 2024, this program will engage 80 young adults, ages 18-26, in wildland fire prevention, reforestation, and other natural and cultural resource management projects to support the U.S. Forest Service’s Wildfire Crisis Strategy and Reforestation Strategy. Native youth will be recruited for Forest Corps in key locations to support cultural resource management projects. AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps/Forest Corps members will receive a compensation package equivalent to $15 an hour, including lodging, transportation, clothing, a living allowance, health benefit, and more. Members will receive extensive training, hands-on-experience, and leadership skills for future careers in natural resource management, forest health, and climate resilience at the U.S Forest Service or other organizations.
  • Increasing Homeownership Opportunities for Native Americans. In October 2023, USDA announced its partnership with eight Native Community Development Financial Institutions (NCDFIs) to expand homeownership opportunities for Native Americans living on Tribal lands in eight states by providing funding to each institution through the Native CDFI Relending Demonstration Program. This pilot program, administered under the Single Family Housing Direct Loan program, provides loans to NCDFIs to relend to eligible homebuyers on Native lands.
  • Tribal scholarship and fellowship opportunities. In October 2023 USDA announced two tribal higher education opportunities to train the next generation of agricultural professionals and strengthen ties with tribal higher education institutions. The USDA 1994 Tribal Scholars Program offers a fast-track career path with USDA, and the Terra Preta do Indio Tribal Faculty Fellowship engages tribal college faculty with USDA resources and research. New this year with the USDA 1994 Tribal Scholars Program, the tuition coverage can follow the student from a two-year associate program at a tribal college or university (TCU) to a four-year bachelor’s degree program (at a TCU or another land-grant institution) and provides full tuition, fees, books, a housing stipend, and paid workforce training to any interested and eligible students pursing degrees in agriculture, food, natural resource sciences, or related academic disciplines at a tribal college or university (TCU). These programs reflect USDA’s commitment to advance equity and remove barriers to service for tribal nations and encourage tribal workforce development.
  • Investing in restoring forests across tribal, state, and privately managed lands. In August 2023, the Department announced its plan to invest $16.2 million to restore forests across tribal, state, and private lands. This is the first time the Forest Service will make Landscape Scale Restoration program grants directly available to federally recognized Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations to restore priority forest landscapes on tribal lands, including trust lands, reservation lands, and other lands owned by tribes; it is an important step in honoring the commitment to strengthen nation-to-nation relationships.
  • Advancing Tribal Sovereignty through Self-Determination Projects for Tribal Food Program. Food and Nutrition Service announced a partnership with eight tribes for a new Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations Self-Determination Demonstration Projects. Empowering tribal nations to select and purchase food themselves helps better align FDPIR (Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations) food packages through tribal dietary preferences, supports indigenous agricultural producers, and honors tribal sovereignty. In October 2023, the Department announced partnerships for a new interagency pilot project aimed at offering more localized ground bison meat for tribal communities through the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). The pilot will look at changes to how USDA purchases bison to better support buying the meat from local, small, and mid-sized bison herd managers and delivering it directly to their local tribal communities.
  • Ensure tribal perspectives and input. As part of our commitment to removing barriers to service for tribal governments, citizens, and tribal nations, in June 2023, the Department announced the establishment of a Tribal Advisory Committee. The committee, which will meet several times a year, will provide invaluable advice, guidance, and insight to the Secretary of Agriculture on matters relating to tribal and Indian affairs. This input will be utilized for recommendations for USDA programs and policies, including through an annual report to Congress.
  • Fortifying biosecurity measures for Tribal Partners. In May 2023, the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program (NADPRP), through APHIS, awarded $566,626 to support four new cooperative agreements with Tribal partners. The projects will enhance these tribes' animal disease response capabilities and strengthen APHIS's relationship with Tribal partners. Funded projects assist tribal nations in developing and practicing plans to quickly control high-consequence disease outbreaks, enhance producer biosecurity measures, support animal movement decisions, and provide education to tribal livestock owners.
  • From April 24 to May 1, USDA conducted Tribal Consultations addressing economic development; food, safety, and trade; farming, ranching, and conservation; forests and public lands management; and education and research.
  • The Forest Service (FS)’s Tribal Relations Action Plan on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships, released in February 2023, provides guidance on fulfilling the agency’s federal trust responsibility, honoring its treaty obligations, and supporting Tribal self-determination. With this tool in hand, Forest Service can manage federal lands and waters in a manner that seeks to protect treaty, religious, spiritual, subsistence, and cultural interests of federally recognized Tribes. Affirming the Department’s commitment to implementing the Plan, a March 10, 2023, announcement committed $12 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to be invested in fiscal year 2023 to complete projects in support of the Tribal Forest Protection Act (TFPA). Projects to be funded through this investment focus on improving relationships, co-stewardship, restoring traditionally significant plants, and reducing hazardous fuels while incorporating indigenous knowledge, creating job opportunities for tribal crews and increasing youth engagement.
  • Aligning USDA structures to acknowledge Tribal sovereignty. Tribal colleges are owned by Tribal governments. Honoring the call from tribal leaders to acknowledge this sovereign relationship, in February 2023, USDA moved the USDA Office of Tribal Colleges and Universities to the Office of Tribal Relations.
  • Indigenous food sovereignty initiative. In November 2022, the Secretary launched this USDA-wide initiative, challenging all of USDA to reimagine our food and agricultural programs from an Indigenous perspective. The Office of Tribal Relations Indigenous Food Sovereignty Initiative partnered with the North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS) to produce a series of videos on Indigenous foods foraging and cooking including how to add foraged and Indigenous foods to foods available through USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). In the first year the videos highlighted the Midwest, Mountain Plains, and Southwest regions, in the second year videos were released for the Northeast and Southeast regions, and in the third year videos will be released for Alaska and Hawaii. The initiative also created a manual to help interested cattle producers transition to bison and created several regional indigenous seed saving hubs
  • In November 2022, the Farm Service Agency announced new Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) partnerships with three tribal nations in the Great Plains, covering 3.1 million acres, to help conserve, maintain, and improve grassland productivity, reduce soil erosion, and enhance wildlife habitat. These are the first-ever CREP agreements with tribal nations.
  • In November 2022, the Forest Service entered 11 new co-stewardship agreements with nine tribes, involving eight National Forests. Another 60 agreements with 45 tribes are in process. Tribal co-stewardship agreements protect the treaty, religious, subsistence, and cultural interests of federally recognized Indian Tribes in the management of national forests and grasslands.
  • Rural Development (RD) made historic changes to the ReConnect Broadband Program in August 2022. Applicants are now required to receive tribal permissions to use ReConnect funding to provide broadband service on tribal lands. The program is also setting aside a significant amount of grant funding for tribal projects serving tribal lands, with no matching funds required. The resulting increase in applications from tribes and tribal entities led to additional grant awards to tribal applicants.
  • USDA will establish a tribal-focused Regional Food Business Center to provide technical assistance needed for tribal producers and businesses to access new and existing markets, and federal, state, and local resources.
  • In September 2022, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) issued new guidance and is training states on tribal consultation requirements related to SNAP implementation.
  • To further increase tribal food sovereignty, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has, to date, awarded $5.7 million to eight tribes for self-determination demonstration projects that give them more options to directly select and purchase foods through the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations. FNS will evaluate the projects to understand their impacts on access and participation, informing further expansion of the effort. FNS will award up to an additional $6 million to support new projects in FY2023.
  • New partnerships. Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) laboratory in Mandan, North Dakota is partnering with two tribal colleges in North Dakota to study indigenous seeds and propagation techniques, and develop best practices for ARS sites to incorporate traditional ecological knowledge into research and work.
  • Rural Development (RD) instituted a Tribal Training Program — virtual staff training built around four core principles: trust responsibility, tribal consultation, tribal sovereignty, and the historic relationship between tribes and the federal government.
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is collaborating with Native American agriculture and natural resources organizations to host regional Emergency Preparedness and Response Training. In FY22, 102 tribal officials representing 41 tribal nations participated, receiving technical assistance to develop animal and plant health emergency response plans, initiating memorandum of understanding discussions, coordinating logistical exercises, and identifying response vulnerabilities.
  • In partnership with the Department of the Interior, in November 2022 the Natural Resources Conservation Service Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program allocated $40 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to assist relocation of Alaskan Native villages due to climate change, erosion, and flooding. Seven villages have been chosen from a set of the highest-risk villages. The funding will cover feasibility studies, watershed planning and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance, and move design.
  • Recognizing Tribal importance in organizational names. Forest Service has renamed its “State and Private Forestry” organization “State, Private, and Tribal Forestry.”
  • Assisting Tribal establishments with federal inspections. In October 2022, Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) assisted two tribal nation establishments—Est. 47879 Looped Square Meats (Muscogee Creek Nation) and M1007 Cherokee Nation Meat Processing LLC.—to come under federal inspection to slaughter and process cattle, sheep, goats, and swine. Both establishments also slaughter and process bison under a state inspection system. Bison is not an “amenable species” under the Federal Meat Inspection Act; therefore, FSIS usually charges for the service of providing bison inspection. To provide financial relief to a tribal establishment, FSIS coordinated with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry to issue M1007 a state grant of inspection, which includes no-cost bison inspection.
Selected Resources




And Justice for All graphic

7. Committing Unwaveringly to Civil Rights

USDA has committed unwaveringly to civil rights, working to equip its civil rights offices with the tools, skills, capacity, and processes essential to effectively and efficiently enforce and uphold civil rights.

"We are acknowledging USDA’s storied history and charting a new path forward. Today’s USDA is committed to rooting out systemic racism and advancing justice, equity, and opportunity for all."
- Secretary Vilsack


About the USDA Civil Rights App

  • Building cross-community solidarity to counter antisemitism, Islamophobia and related forms of discrimination and bias. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is fulfilling one of its many commitments to counter antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of discrimination and bias and better protect the civil rights of all Americans. As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, the Department joins eight agencies for the first time clarifying in writing that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics in federally funded programs and activities. This includes certain forms of antisemitic, Islamophobic, and related discrimination and bias.
  • Rebuilding civil rights capabilities is critical. USDA has committed to fully funding and staffing the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR) and agency-level civil rights offices and has ensured that executive performance plans incorporate equity and civil rights compliance.
  • Improving processing times for complaints. USDA has drastically improved the timeliness of its Equal Employment Opportunity investigations, decision making, and appeals. Processing time for USDA-customer discrimination complaints has been reduced from three years to approximately 16 months—the quickest in over a decade, though still requiring improvement.
  • A foreclosure moratorium has been implemented for Rural Development home-loan borrowers while those customers’ program complaints are processed.
  • Mandatory training. USDA now provides mandatory training to all staff on unconscious bias and strategies to counter bias’s effects.
  • Non-discrimination in nutrition programs. FNS has reaffirmed that its nutrition programs are open to all eligible people, making clear that the agency’s non-discrimination statement, which applies across all our programs, includes gender identity and sexual orientation. FNS also issued guidance that makes clear if an LGBTQ+ individual experiences discrimination by or within a federal nutrition assistance program, they have an avenue to file an antidiscrimination complaint. (Sept. 2022)
Selected Resources




Rural investments through RD programs data visualizations

8. Operating with Transparency and Accountability

USDA will operate transparently and accountably, providing information on Department programs that Congress, stakeholders, and the general public need to hold us to account on our equity agenda, and working systematically to collect and take account of public feedback.


USDA Launches Rural Data Gateway to Strengthen Partnerships and Expand Access to Resources for People in Rural America (Feb. 2023)


Posted Data

  • 2022 US Agriculture Policy Review. USDA released the 2022 edition of the annual US Agriculture Policy Review series documenting developments in U.S. agricultural policies, with a focus on policies related to agricultural production, agrofood value chains, and food and nutrition assistance. This report included an introduction of the new measures and programs focused on improving equity.
  • USDA launched its Procurement Forecast website, located at Forecast of Business Opportunities. With this tool, small businesses can easily search and filter USDA procurement forecasts, identify the opportunities most relevant to them, and download the results for easy reference. Already accessible to users is the forecast data for fiscal years 2023 to 2025. The new tool dramatically improves data transparency, increases accuracy, provides additional options for data fields, and allows for more frequent updates.
  • Rural Development (RD) launched its Rural Data Gateway in February 2023. With 20 new integrated Rural Investment Dashboards and visualizations, the Gateway makes more than a decade of Rural Development’s investment history instantly accessible to the public. Its simple interface allows users to easily sift through obligations data from more than 65 of the loan, grant, and loan guarantee programs Rural Development administers. The dashboards highlight potentially underserved areas of need. Rural Data Gateway information is updated monthly and can be downloaded.
  • National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) posts data from the Census of Agriculture, with abundant information about the Nation’s farmers including a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Even small plots of land, whether rural or urban, growing fruit, vegetables or some food animals count, if $1,000 or more of such products were raised and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the Census year. The Ag Census looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures. The 2017 Census information is posted; the 2023 Census is underway. NASS is undertaking significant outreach to promote participation in the Ag Census, which is an opportunity for full representation in data used by decisionmakers to allocate agricultural funding and resources.
  • National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has made technological advances in collection and distribution of important agricultural data. In January 2022, NASS launched a new respondent portal aimed at reducing the time needed for agricultural producers to complete surveys and otherwise lower barriers for responses. NASS will reach more producers, allowing them to provide data that reflects the broad diversity of America’s farmers and ranchers. Also last year, NASS conducted its first-ever livestream of the Secretary’s data report briefing. Now, several briefings are available for real-time viewing as data is being released. Livestreaming improves equitable public access to NASS’s data and increases transparency and understanding of NASS’s processes.
  • The Farm Service Agency (FSA) posts substantial annual data about Farm Lending.
  • FNS posts detailed information about nutrition assistance programs and their participants, including comparisons to eligible populations by demographic subgroup.
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service also posts information about conservation program participation.

Collection and response to feedback

  • The USDA Equity Commission is an independent 41-member body charged with evaluating USDA programs and services and developing recommendations on how the Department can reduce barriers. The Commission presented its first set of interim recommendations on February 28, 2023. USDA is committed to a thorough response, making needed changes so that Department programs, services, and decisions reflect the values of equity and inclusion, providing everyone a fair shot at resources and addressing longstanding inequities in agriculture.
  • Systematic outreach. Rural Development’s field offices are using specialized data mapping and outreach tools to engage the most socially vulnerable, distressed, and underserved communities across rural America. As of September 2022, 425 communities and more than 1100 entities were engaged. The agency has worked across programs to bring what it learned about barriers from these engagements into policy processes.
  • In FY 2023, the Farm Production and Conservation mission area is distributing three nationwide surveys: (1) Farm Service Agency Farm Loans Customer Feedback Survey, (2) Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentives Program Customer Feedback Survey, and (3) FPAC Prospective Customer Survey focusing on gaining a better understanding of farmers, ranchers and forest managers who have not previously worked with FPAC. Each one of the three surveys has been translated into 13 languages and is available for completion online. FPAC is also actively seeking feedback through buttons on, FSA, NRCS, and RMA public-facing websites. Analytics of the survey results over time will provide insights into customer reactions to policy and operational changes, the simplified direct loan applications, and automation improvements.
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) works to incorporate feedback from stakeholders into its policy and planning processes. For example, after hearing about the need at the Black Farmers Association and Professional Agricultural Workers conferences, APHIS is improving the marketing of its Feral Swine Program to ensure underserved farmers know how to access these resources.
Selected Resources