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USDA grants to help farmers

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- Disadvantaged and minority farmers in Southwest Georgia are the targets to be reached by a pair of grants worth a combined $800,000 that will be administered through Albany State University programs.

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations Krysta Harden announced the award of the two USDA grants at a news conference Monday at ASU's Flint River Water and Planning Center.

The grants total $400,000 each and will be administered by the Water and Planning Center and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund. The grants will be used to help socially disadvantaged and minority farmers in a 16-county target area of Southwest Georgia.

"It's always fun to return home and bring good news with me," Harden, a Camilla native, told the gathered crowd. "These two grants will be used to keep minority and disadvantaged farmers on their land and also help catch them up to speed technologically."

For the past 43 years, the FSC/LAF has worked in rural, underserved communities and with limited-resource farmers and landowners in the South. The organization has a track record for helping outreach and technical assistance programs for minority farmers in Southwest Georgia.

"Our job is to take this money and figure out how to make it work at the local level," FSC Executive Director Ralph Paige said. "This is a huge win for Southwest Georgia's farmers. We are grateful for the assistance, especially in the light of these difficult economic times.

"We hope our program will be a model for the rest of the nation."

The Water Planning and Policy Center will use its grant money to support socially disadvantaged farmers in improving on-farm management. The project will target reduced energy and water use and protection of stream flow, water quality, wildlife habitat, and endangered and threatened species.

The targeted outcomes of the project are land retention and farm profitability.

"We feel a diverse population on our farms makes us stronger," Center Executive Director Doug Wilson said. "We wish every time someone came home from Washington that they brought money with them.

"We'll use these resources to push technology out there and benefit our farms."