The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has released a report evaluating its program to assist socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. The Farmer Equity Act was passed by the California legislature in 2017, which required that CDFA ensure food and agriculture laws, policies, and programs are developed with socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in mind. The 2020 Report to the California Legislature on the Farmer Equity Act was recently issued, which details the progress of the act’s implementation.
“This report is culmination of the first year of enactment of the Farmer Equity Act (AB 1348), which has brought forth many positive changes at CDFA,” CDFA Secretary Karen Ross said in the report. “Through this report and the work of CDFA’s farmer equity advisor, this agency will continue to improve and enhance our services and support for all of California’s farmers and ranchers.”
The report cites four major challenges to realizing the goals put forth in the Farmer Equity Act. The report identifies land tenure as a significant issue as many socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers lease ground rather than own it. Language barriers also appear to be a challenge in fulfilling the mission of the Farmer Equity Act. Many socially disadvantaged farmers do not speak English as their first language, often making it difficult to access information on regulations, pest management, marketing, and business management.
There is also a lack of engagement with agricultural boards and commissions. The report notes that social disadvantaged farmers are less likely to engage with marketing associations or decision-making bodies such as CDFA boards and commissions. Another challenge is that socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers may not be aware of the resources and programs available to them. The report cites an example where a very limited number of farmers and ranchers surveyed had knowledge of CDFA grant programs.
The report also provides a series of recommendations to assist with overcoming the specific challenges facing the realization of the goals of the Farmer Equity Act. Many of the solutions offered focus on increased communication, outreach, and education with underrepresented communities. The report also recommends incorporating the findings into various CDFA programs and trainings to allow for better use moving forward.