Farm Service Agency calls for minority farmers

The Farm Service Agency in Albany County is calling for more women and ethnic minorities to take advantage of several environmental conservation and loan programs offered by the agricultural organization.

The FSA is a local organization associated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

It is going to push for women and ethnic minorities to apply for loans to build and operate farms.

Many of the FSA programs are available to all farmers, while some apply to only those who meet certain requirements.

FSA programs are available to all producers but we would like to increase participation by traditionally underrepresented groups in all program areas, Thomas Della Rocco, county executive director of the FSA, said. "With these loan programs, FSA hopes to help reverse the declining number of farmers across the United States and especially here in New York. These loans help to encourage and assist them in owning and operating their own farms, participate in agricultural programs, and become integral parts of the agricultural community."

The FSA defines those who have been subjected to racial, ethnic or gender prejudice as a socially disadvantaged farmer without taking into account their individual qualities. Those groups include women, African-Americans, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, and would be eligible for the special loan.

Della Rocco said the FSA saves part of its direct and guaranteed loan funds for SDA loans.

Della Rocco also said that while farm numbers are down nationally and statewide, Albany County is still going strong, but can still improve on tapping into groups of people who might not be fully utilizing the services of the FSA.

Albany County is a pretty interesting place, said Della Rocco.

"It's not just a dairy and it's not just a beef agricultural environment," he said. "It's a diverse macro-chasm."

He said there are 484 farming operations in Albany, encompassing everything from beekeepers to small operations to large dairy farms.

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