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Information on how USDA is strengthening partnerships through improved access to helpful resources and guidance


Established under the Inflation Reduction Act, USDA CARES is a customer service initiative to collaborate with USDA partners, act on what we’ve heard, rebuild trust, empower underserved communities and strengthen partnerships through improved access to resources.


USDA CARES is designed to better connect underserved producers and our partner organizations who serve them, sometimes known as cooperators, with relevant programs and services by increasing access to helpful resources. USDA CARES will include:

  • Resources with critical information on USDA programs and services

  • Networking and knowledge-sharing opportunities among USDA CARES partners

  • Trainings and other learning opportunities for USDA partners

Listen Better, Serve Better

We know that our partners are the experts on how best to serve their communities. USDA CARES resources are developed with the help of our partners at every step of the design process. Input and feedback are regularly gathered from partners to ensure that USDA CARES resources are useful and inclusive of partner needs.

What We’ve Learned from Working Directly with Underserved Communities

The goal of USDA CARES is to address the common concerns and barriers underserved communities face to increase equitable access to USDA programs and services. Our partners have told us:

  • One-size-fits-all solutions do not serve diverse communities
  • They are concerned about  access to necessary and accurate information about USDA programs
  • They need helpful information and desire a collaborative relationship between USDA and partners to foster knowledge-sharing
  • USDA should provide resources that are useful, accessible, and culturally considerate as a critical step toward improving equity

About the Partner Portal

The “Partner Portal” is resource designed to help USDA CARES partners access the information and tools that are most relevant to their work. The Portal is designed specifically for, and by, those that work with underserved farmers, ranchers, and landowners.

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Partner Spotlight: ARPTAI Cooperators

The primary goal of the American Rescue Plan Technical Assistance Investment Program (ARPTAI) is to ensure improved understanding of and equitable participation in the full range of USDA programs and services among underserved farmers, ranchers, forest landowners and operators through supporting the organizational delivery and establishment of comprehensive technical assistance projects and networks.

Through this program, a network of cooperators (i.e., community-based organizations or non-profits) are working collaboratively with USDA and with other cooperators to deliver targeted technical assistance programs and outreach activities focused on a range of relevant topics, including:

  • effectively accessing USDA programs and personnel

  • agricultural production

  • agriculture credit

  • rural development

  • financial literacy

  • risk management

  • mediation

  • cooperative development

  • land access

USDA, through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), selected its first round of ARPTAI cooperators (Cohort I) in November 2021, which included 20 organizations ($75M) and announced the second round (Cohort II) of cooperators in October 2022, which included 13 universities and nonprofits ($31.5M). This funding is made possible through the American Rescue Plan Technical Assistance Investment Program. Learn more and connect with the ARPTAI cooperators.

About Our Terminology

USDA uses the term historically underserved to reference communities that have been subjected to discrimination and/or have not been provided equal access, funding, opportunities, and other resources to participate in USDA programs and services.

The groups of farmers and ranchers that fall under the “historically underserved” grouping, as defined in the Farm Bill, are those who are Beginning, Socially Disadvantaged, Veterans, and Limited Resource. Statutory and regulatory flexibilities to ensure equitable access to services are available within USDA programs for producers who meet the definition for historically underserved producers.  This information will be updated accordingly if guidance is changed. Learn more about our terminology.

This information will be updated accordingly if guidance is changed. Learn more about our terminology.


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Page last updated: July 5, 2023