This is the third episode of our 2023 Farm Bill series, digging into the farm policy that will affect the next generation of farmers and ranchers. We’ve been asking how 1,000 pages of federal policy can provide tangible benefits and support to beginning and BIPOC farmers, our communities, and the environment. And in this episode, we're joined by Mario Holguin and Julieta Saucedo of La Semilla Food Center, and Ana Moran, Water Organizer at the National Young Farmers Coalition. La Semilla Food Center, based in Anthony, New Mexico, has a mission “to foster a healthy, self-reliant, fair, and sustainable food system in the Paso del Norte region of southern New Mexico and El Paso, TX.” They do this work through a number of programs that Mario and Julieta discuss with Ana, including their Community Farm, farmer fellowships, policy and community development, and storytelling efforts. Throughout their conversation Ana, Julieta, and Mario explore some of the ways that the 2023 Farm Bill can directly address the climate crisis, and what building climate resilience looks like across the Southwest. We know young farmers across the country are motivated by conservation and social justice. In our 2022 national survey 97% or respondents said their farm or ranch was using sustainable practices, and 86% identified their practices as being regenerative. We end our episode today with a brief chat between Erin Foster-West, Policy Coordination and Management Director with the Coalition, and myself. Erin shares some exciting new bills recently introduced in Congress that would help small farms secure more accessible funding for conservation efforts and also support community support systems through farmer-to-farmer education opportunities.
This is the third episode of our 2023 Farm Bill series, digging into the farm policy that will affect the next generation of farmers and ranchers.
We’ve been asking how 1,000 pages of federal policy can provide tangible benefits and support to beginning and BIPOC farmers, our communities, and the environment. And in this episode, we're joined by Mario Holguin and Julieta Saucedo of La Semilla Food Center, and Ana Moran, Water Organizer at the National Young Farmers Coalition.
La Semilla Food Center, based in Anthony, New Mexico, has a mission “to foster a healthy, self-reliant, fair, and sustainable food system in the Paso del Norte region of southern New Mexico and El Paso, TX.” They do this work through a number of programs that Mario and Julieta discuss with Ana, including their Community Farm, farmer fellowships, policy and community development, and storytelling efforts.
Throughout their conversation Ana, Julieta, and Mario explore some of the ways that the 2023 Farm Bill can directly address the climate crisis, and what building climate resilience looks like across the Southwest. We know young farmers across the country are motivated by conservation and social justice. In our 2022 national survey 97% or respondents said their farm or ranch was using sustainable practices, and 86% identified their practices as being regenerative.
We end our episode today with a brief chat between Erin Foster-West, Policy Coordination and Management Director with the Coalition, and myself. Erin shares some exciting new bills recently introduced in Congress that would help small farms secure more accessible funding for conservation efforts and also support community support systems through farmer-to-farmer education opportunities.
Find the Young Farmers Action Center here.
Learn more about La Semilla Food Center here.
Learn more about the Farmer-to-Farmer Education Act here and take action and learn more about the Small Farm Conservation Act here.
Become a National Young Farmers Coalition member at youngfarmers.org/join for only $1/year.
Produced by Jessica Manly and Evan Flom.
Edited by Hannah Beal.
Original podcast art by SJ Brekosky.
Gratitude to Chipotle and 11th Hour for sponsoring our Young Farmers' land campaign and to the our many partner organizations for furthering this important work with us.
Evan: Welcome to the Young Farmers Podcast. I'm Evan Flom, Campaign Communications Manager at Young Farmers. This is the third episode of our 2023 Farm Bill series, digging into the farm policy that will affect the next generation of farmers and ranchers. Throughout the series, we've been asking how a thousand pages of federal policy can provide tangible benefits to beginning and BIPOC farmers, our communities, and the environment.
And in this episode, we're joined by Ana Moran. Water Organizer at the National Young Farmers Coalition and Mario Holguin and Julieta Saucedo of La Samilla Food Center. La Samilla is based in Anthony, New Mexico and has a mission to foster a healthy, self- reliant, fair, and sustainable food system [00:01:00] in the Paso del Norte region of southern New Mexico and El Paso, Texas.
They do this work through a number of programs that Mario and Julieta discuss with Ana, including their community farm, farmer fellowships, policy and community development, and their storytelling efforts. Throughout their conversation, Ana, Julieta, and Mario explore some of the ways that the 2023 farm bill can directly address the climate crisis and what building climate resilience looks like across the Southwest.
We know young farmers across the country are motivated by conservation and social justice. For example, in our 2022 national survey, 97 percent of respondents said their farm or ranch was using sustainable practices, and 86 percent identified their practices as being regenerative.
We end our episode today with a brief chat between Erin Foster-West, our Policy Coordination and Management Director with the [00:02:00] Coalition, and myself.
Erin shares some exciting new bills recently introduced in Congress that would help small farms secure more accessible funding for conservation efforts. and also assist community support systems through farmer to farmer education opportunities. But first, here's Ana, Julieta, and Mario.
Ana: Well, thank you, Julieta and Mario, for joining us today. We'd love to hear and learn more about la semilla and both of you. Julieta, what brought you to work in agriculture?
Julieta: Hi, Ana. So I think it started when I was little. I saw my grandpa as the happiest person on earth, and I wanted to be as happy as him.
And the happiest he would look like, it was [00:03:00] like at the farm, right? When we were out there in the fields. But then life, uh, just put me in another path. And farming didn't really became available until five years ago when I started volunteering with Mario, actually. And then later started my my own practice.
Ana: That's incredible to hear that your journey began at such a young age and also with the help of Mario. I'd love to hear Mario what brought you to this work and how that's been to, you know, greeting and bringing in new farmers into your agricultural work.
Mario: Yeah, so, um, I moved to the U. S. about 10 years ago, and during the first year that I was here in El Paso, Texas, I wasn't able to work, like, legally, so I started volunteering, uh, at a farm, and at the same time, I wanted to become a chef, [00:04:00] and I opened a, a seed catalog, and I realized that, We have a huge diversity of crops.
Now we have black radishes, we have purple carrots, yellow watermelon, and all those ingredients usually are not available. So I decided to, to plant them in order to cook with, you know, with different flavors, with new flavors for me. Uh, yeah, so I decided to plant them. And I took a farmer to farmer learning program in Anthony, New Mexico. And, you know, and I start selling at the farmer's markets, at the restaurants through my farm, which is Desierto, Desierto Verde. And that was about seven, eight years ago.
Ana: If you could, Mario, share more about La Semilla, you know, how it's evolved over the years.
Mario: Sure, sure. So La Semilla Food Center was established in 2010 as a result of community gardens programs and community commitment to transforming the food system. [00:05:00] So we work with our vecinos. We work with our neighbors, elders, and we learn from them to, you know, to increase educational opportunities, food access, food justice, resources for our border communities. And as a land based organization, we also honor our desert ecosystem and work to challenge extractive systems that continue the degradation of our environment.
And, uh, in order to do this, uh, we have six different programs, which are community education. So through the community education program, focus in organizing and teaching classes, including nutrition, cooking, farming, and they work with the community organizations. And then we also have the edible education program, which is similar, but they focus in schools.
They do a lot of classes and [00:06:00] cooking demos. farming and they work with a lot of schools in the area with kids. And then we have the Farm Fresh program, which I work with. And we work with a lot of farmers, with local farmers, providing technical support, food safety, marketing, post harvest. And in the Farm Fresh program, we have a food safety program too.
And we have a CSA, so we we do boxes of produce every week, and that's a little bit about community education, edible education and farm fresh. I don't know if Julieta, you want to talk about the other three programs?
Julieta: Yes, yes. So I'll continue. So we have another three programs, which are policy and community development, community farm and storytelling, policy and community development, focus in advocacy, outreach, [00:07:00] education and civic engagement for farm workers in our communities.
And it is rooted in connection and collaboration within the community. And this year in particular is mostly focused on the farm bill, what needs to be changed in the farm bill, how to advocate for farmers in the in the farm bill and also for the programs. And the community farm is like the land based program, like everything is land based, but if this one is like the one that has a physical land. And that one... we focus on agroecological practices, and how to heal the land and also heal our communities with it.
We also host a few training programs in there. Right now, we have going the farmer fellowship, which is to support beginning farmers in [00:08:00] the region to gain more farming training, and we also trained them on how to start their own operations. Then we have storytelling, and I think of storytelling as like a web, uh, because It is connected with every program, and it kind of hosts the stories of every program, and of the farmers, and of our region, and it creates these interconnections, and narrates the story of the Paso del Norte region, right, and whatever relationships we have outside of the Paso del Norte region, and how this impacts and benefits our communities through story, yeah.
Mario: And, uh, something, something, uh, beautiful about having six different programs is that we work together. No, there's a little, uh, cross programmatic activities between us. For example, uh, if community education is doing a class with the community, well, if they want to use ingredients, they contact Farm [00:09:00] Fresh to get, uh, fresh produce, you know, so they can use with their community and also, uh, like policy they're advocating now this year for the farm bill and storytelling. It's telling that all this story that is happening between the programs and that's just an example, but I'm sure that we all work together in different ways.
Ana: I know that you all also work with other farmers in the region and also help to incubate young and beginning farmers. Can you share a little more about that work?
Julieta: Yes, so we have the, uh, the farmer fellowship at the farm and that one is, uh, it's a training program for beginning farmers and we have different levels of experience. Like some are like in a very beginning level. They only been gardening and they are trying to jump into farming scale and then we have also some that already had experience, like working at farms. For example, those that [00:10:00] already have like experience working at farms, they benefit a lot from learning about agroecology and all that it englobes. And those who are in a very beginning stage is, it's also very good because they, when you are in a very beginning stage, you're just about to start.
So you start that way. You don't have to later on change your practice. And that one, that program is, uh, I think it's very rich, not only because I coordinated, but I think I've had that feedback, uh, we have, uh, we bring on guest speakers, uh, from academics to, to farmers, to. People that is not there are not farmers that have experience in value added products or the cultural value of crops or the cultural importance of being respectful with the land.
We also do site visits. But we also do site visits to research sites so they can have like all [00:11:00] the perspectives right now, from the small scale to the academic level. So there is that one, then we are about to start. Thank you. We just closed the applications, actually, for the Seed Steward Fellowship, and that one is for seed saving people with seed saving and divorce here in the region.
So we have those two things of the community farm, but we also have other fellowship opportunities. There is a cultural fellowship that is focusing the cultural practice in the Chihuahuan desert. And then we have also the food safety ambassador fellowship, which Mario is part of. And so we have those four fellowships right now going on.
Ana: Mario, would you like to expand on? Anything that's been shared?
Mario: Sure. Sure. I can expand a little bit. So we have 10 food safety ambassador farmers through New Mexico and Texas. And we are learning about food [00:12:00] safety. They are learning about food safety and they are the ones that eventually are going to become the food safety trainers in the region.
No. Yeah. I really like that program. And also, um, we have, we work with more than 20 hundred farmers, and they are all small farmers. I say small. It's like one acre or less back there. Farmers were farmers because the definition of small farm for the USDA it's the ones that make less than 250, 000 per year, and we are far from that.
No. So we are. We are very, very small. But when I say small, I mean, like, very, like, impactful. Mm. Farmers, you know, that are working the land, that are doing agroecology, right? Taking care of our neighbors, you know, the lands that are taking care of the water.
Ana: Such important work to integrate these agroecology principles and [00:13:00] support small scale farmers.
I think, you know, it's really, you all serve as a model. La Semilla serves as a model. As we look to the future, you know, especially under the reality of climate change and learning how to grow in the desert with less and less water. I really appreciated that about La Semilla's demonstration farm when I went and visited and I saw the Chihuahuan desert plot and I'd love to hear more about that work that you're doing around agroecology.
What does that look like for La Semilla and can you share a little more of what does agroecology mean and what's the importance of it in agriculture?
Julieta: Actually, that's the work in progress, right? Defining agroecology in the Chihuahuan Desert is like... Something that we are working on a lot of agroecological projects that we see, uh, or that we [00:14:00] can reference to are happening in places with temporary forest or more water access.
And then we have the other ones, like, that are in other deserts that are not the 201 desert. And it's not necessarily the same climate and it's not necessarily the same, uh, water availability or the same moisture in the air. Right. But that is something that we are trying to define. Also, like, how do we create climate resilience in times of the climate crisis, right?
Nature, in general, is wise, like, It provides the tools and the resources for the region where you're at. When you think about the nutritional value of desert edible plants, here in the desert a lot of people have the perception that there is nothing that grows here that is good for us or that we can eat. And that is not true. Like, there are a lot of things that grow here that are very rich and very [00:15:00] good for us. For example, tuna. Prickly pear, or nopales on the Prickly pear cactus, those both things are very, are very nutrition dense and they are good to prevent certain illness. And then we have some berries here, desert edible berries, that a lot of people don't realize we have.
Yeah, so. We have those things that grow naturally here, and knowing, like, us, because it's been a lot of learning for me, I already brought some knowledge with me when I came into La Semilla, but I also learned a lot about these plants and grew my relationship with these plants, and one of the goals is to Give space for people for our community to build a relationship with this plants because the death connection had happened for hundreds of years, right?
People haven't been able to know to have this knowledge about this plants. And part of the work is within defining what agroecology is and the Chihuahuan [00:16:00] desert is rebuilding this relationship with this native edible plants. How do we mimic their natural environment, but also make sure that these foods are available?
Ana: I have learned a lot, even in that very, you know, short explanation that you shared with us. And there's so much to learn from the land and from the natural environment all around us. So important how you all are building climate resilience into your farming practices. I'd love to hear more, um, to, you know, when climate, you know, the climate has been changing, conditions from year to year may look different.
You know, what does it look like to adapt these plants and farm as the desert is getting hotter and drier?
Mario: Yeah, yeah. And that's, uh, that's hard. No. So right now, I think yesterday we [00:17:00] hit the 27 consecutive days with high temperature at or above 100 degrees. And we're about to hit the 28th, and so it's, uh, it's, it's tough, no?
Yeah, also, uh, and that just isn't, it's not just the hot weather, it's also the, the winds, no? I remember that I used to change my greenhouse plastic every year, sometimes every two years, and now I already changed it three times. I'm just tired, and I'm looking for, for ways to avoid changing the plastic, you know, three times per year.
Ana: Are there practices, or other methods that have helped you all, you know, navigate the wind, the heat.
Mario: Yeah, so I just saw a picture of a farm in Albuquerque and they just put a chipping container next to the farm and that is working as a windbreak. So that's an example of how we [00:18:00] can reduce the impact of the winds.
Julieta: Yeah, that's something that I implemented too, like the cercos vivos or vegetative buffers. Those are, life changing, like, in terms of wind, and it's also very interesting, like, the physics of how they work, because when you put a wall, the wall is going to stop the wind, but if your crops are, like, I don't know, like, 200 feet away from the, From the wall or even 20 feet away from the from the wall, their crops are going to still be affected by the wind.
But when you use the vegetative buffer or a vegetative wall, that one is going to have like a larger spectrum on how the wind is going to be blocked. So it is going to protect more your crops, and it's also going to retain the dust that comes with the wind. So that is a very good Thing to implement.[00:19:00]
I also would like to add like another way to face climate crisis and build resilience is communicate and experiment. Yeah, like sharing of knowledge, because the thing is that sometimes we think that we are the only ones facing a problem as a farmer. You have a support system. A lot of things become easier through knowledge exchange.
We can create knowledge for climate resilience. If we have a strong support system and farming community, and we communicate and we work with the land together, we can create knowledge that doesn't exist yet for climate solutions.
Ana: Julieta, that last piece you said is so essential, you know, to the work that [00:20:00] we do as farmers and also the work that we are doing in fighting for a more equitable farm bill. Farmers and ranchers, they have so much knowledge and the ability to exchange from farmer to farmer can be a viable path forward, like you said, in building and co creating knowledge for climate resilience.
And it's something, you know, we're actively advocating for and we hope to see integrated into the farm bill, helping to compensate farmers who, you know, are already exchanging knowledge and helping to create and innovate these solutions as we look to the future. And, you know, and some of the work has not been.
Recognized or supported by USDA and like you said, land access is a huge challenge. We [00:21:00] hear a lot of the times that, you know, folks have barriers in accessing USDA programs to support the work, similar Senita is doing, implementing conservation practices on the land, providing education to farmers. I know that you all use USDA programs for some of the work you do.
Can you share, are there any USDA programs that support your work?
Mario: Yeah, so the needs for, the needs from the BIPOC farmers are very huge as we know, and they're not enough programs, no, from the USDA that, so I think, well, we think the, these programs, uh, should have more. Like inclusive language that target BIPOC and LGTB plus farmers to apply for these grants.
I was a reviewer for one of the National Young Farmers [00:22:00] Coalition grants that encouraged the BIPOC growers to apply. And, uh, I review a lot of applications from white farmers. And I realized that the needs between the wild farmers and BIPOC farmers are very, very, very different. I remember reading applications from wild farmers asking for implements for their tractors, so they can use it at their 100 acre farms, or asking for electric fencing for their 200 acre cattle ranch, or upgrades for their yoga studio.
On the other hand, I remember an application from BIPOC farmers wanting to use the grant to pay for babysitting so they can farm. I also remember reading a BIPOC applicant asking to use the grant. To pay for housing because the rains floated all their house. Also reading applications, uh, I realized the need for other [00:23:00] languages, not just Spanish and English.
I remember a lot of applicants, they don't speak Spanish or English, no, they speak, Nahuatl, Otomi, or Mixteco. And, uh, we need, we need more, more language access now in the grants.
Julieta: Thank you for mentioning that there is more languages than English and Spanish, Mario. If you come from south of the border, at least in a lot of cases, your first language is not going to be Spanish.
Spanish, just because you come from a Spanish speaking country, it doesn't mean that it is your first language, because Spanish was the colonization language, right? And a lot of people still speak their, their original tongues. And adding to, like, how... Can be like how the U. S. A. can support more BIPOC farmers: part of our programming is funded by the USDA, right? It's funded by the [00:24:00] BFRDP grant. And I think that there are some limitations to the grant but it's also very useful and it's also very good. I think we should have more, more of those. I think there should be more of those. And more of those, like, also accessible to other people, for example, we are a non profit, we have a farm that is a demonstration farm, we have that grant. We are able to access this grant, but there is a lot of people that doesn't have access to this grant. I see the need for that, like, for more grants like that one. So, more startup grants for. people that went through a BFRDP program and now needs money to actually start their operations and yes, they might go to an incubation program or There might be an incubation program where they did their BFRDP training, but then what happens next? Because we can only support so far.
Mario: Something that I also [00:25:00] hear from our partner farmers talking about USDA grants, it's the NRCS grant, I mean just, just making, making these grants easier to apply, you know, or to manage. I hear specific about the NRCS grant for the hoop house that the farmers are having a hard time applying, you know, and not just applying that once that you receive it, and this is directly from foreign farmers, is that you need to pay from your pocket by seven or 10, 000. And sometimes we don't have it. No. And so they end up Rejecting the grant because they don't have the funds to pay for for that.
Ana: Mario. We've we've also heard that from our farmer network. Often people have a hard time accessing NRCS grants because of the reimbursement model. They have to spend their own money and be reimbursed after the fact. Also, I am not sure what the BFRDP grant [00:26:00] is. I'd love to hear more for Julieta, if you can share with the audience who may not know what that process looks like.
Julieta: I'll answer to my capacity, to what I remember. BFRDP stands for Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, and it is a USDA grant. It can be used for a variety of things. For example, we have our Farmer Fellowship thanks to that grant. It is strict, but it's... It can be different formats of training.
One of the goals of that grant is to support beginning farmers. For example, we got the grant and we support, we train these beginning farmers and then we develop a structure to support them, not only through the training, but also after they have finished the training and we provide support. With supplies needs or technical assistance needs.[00:27:00]
So those are what some of the things that we do with the grant, but the grant is basically for for training in farming and branching is great.
Ana: Thank you. Thank you for for sharing for those of us who who may not know, you know, what I'm hearing is that oftentimes farmers know best what the, you know, solutions are and can get creative working together to come up with ways to navigate the conditions, you know, under this climate reality and our current climate crisis you know, what I'm hearing a lot in this interview is that the work that you all are doing to educate and also, give access to both culturally and historically relevant knowledge about food, farming, seed is a model for how we can build climate resilience [00:28:00] and also build stronger communities.
So grateful to hear all of you share this incredible knowledge and Would, yeah, love, um, you know, in these closing moments, uh, to hear about really what brings you joy in this work. Mario, if you want to kick it off.
Mario: Sure, uh, I guess, uh, eating. Eating is what brings me joy. Cooking. When I'm, when I'm sleeping, I'm, I'm dreaming about what am I going to have for breakfast.
And then when I'm having breakfast, excited about dinner and what ingredients I'm going to have available for. For this, so yeah, that's what brings me joy about working as a farmer and working with La Semilla.
Julieta: So, uh, a few weeks back, I stand on a berm at the farm, uh, the family farm. It was a high berm and I could see, [00:29:00] like, a lot of the field.
I was just standing, like, feeling the wind and that gives me a lot of joy for me to be able to stand on that berm and look to the field just in the middle of nowhere. A lot of things have to happen, like people building connections, deeper connections with the land like knowing that more farmers are shifting their practice, and I think it's because I'm a Metiche, like I want to know everything about what, what people is doing.
That gives me a lot of joy, like witnessing how we are becoming more conscious and how other people is becoming more conscious about the reality that we're living and the importance of restructuring the conventional food systems and how that not only helps the climate or the but also how that help us to [00:30:00] reconnect with Our ancestors with the land, with the stories of our family just the people that came behind, that were, that was behind this and how that also give us a different intention on how we want the future to look like. Right. So it sounds very romantic .
Ana: Those final words are giving me chills and, and yeah, leave it, leaving me with. Even deeper, you know, commitment to this work, just understanding that the work is on the field and it's also, you know, in our communities and it's ancestral work, um, like you said, yeah, just thank you both again, Mario, for sharing, the work, um, and sharing
that knowledge with. A large [00:31:00] network of folks, and I know that that what you all share is, uh, spreading. Far beyond that.
Evan: Before we get into our conversation with Erin, I wanna remind y'all that Young Farmers has a new Farm Bill Action Center where you can support the bills that we discuss in this episode.
To learn more, go to www.youngfarmers.quorum.us. We'll make sure to add the link in the show notes. And now here's Erin.
Thanks again for making the time today, Erin, really appreciate it. I know that you and the policy team have been busy, but. To start our conversation, I was wondering if you would just introduce yourself and let us know a little bit more about who you are and what your role at Young Farmers is.
Erin: [00:32:00] Yeah, my name is Erin Foster West, she/her pronouns.
I'm out here in Denver. Ute, Arapaho, Cheyenne Nation lands, and I work on our policy team. My title is Policy Coordination and Management Director, which is kind of a mouthful, but basically what that means is that I work across our policy team, bringing some support for all our campaigns. I lead our water and climate campaigns.
Is that, is that a good enough introduction?
Evan: Yeah, I feel like that answers the question and is also a nice segue into my next question, which is just how would you describe young farmers, climate and water campaigns to someone who might not be familiar with our work?
Erin: We're building farmer leaders. In the water and climate spaces.
So we have a couple of fellowships that we've we've run. We've got a water fellowship program running right now [00:33:00] in Colorado, but we've also had water fellows in New Mexico and our 1st cohort was in Colorado in 2020. So the goal of that program is to. Build farmer leadership and provide support for leaders to step into making decisions around state and regional water issues.
We've done a lot of training around water, like, especially in the West. What are water rights? What is prior appropriation? Things that are important for farmers in the West to know since water is so scarce out here. And our fellowships are really moving just beyond training by getting people into those policy spaces and helping to shape the future of what our water system is going to look like.
Similarly for our climate campaign, we have the place. And then we a national climate fellowship. We did some trainings in there as well, but also connected again. Farmers with decision makers, policy leaders. So they could have a voice in climate [00:34:00] discussions that are happening. Right now and over the last year.
And then we do a lot of policy work. We're working on a couple bills right now with the goal of getting them into the farm bill. And we're really working on bills that can support. Farmers, either through financial assistance or technical assistance, getting them the knowledge that they need or the funding that they need to conserve water.
Adapt to climate change, sequester carbon on their farms. So really it can help them meet their environmental ecological stewardship goals on their farm.
Evan: Yeah, that's, that's amazing. I know you and the members of our policy team have been very busy helping to take steps to support those marker bills that you mentioned that are coming out, one of them being the Small Farm Conservation Act.
So, would you tell us a bit more about that bill in particular and what that'll do for young farmers?
Erin: Yeah, [00:35:00] really excited that that was introduced by Senator Bennett, Senator Heinrich, Senator Lujan. We have about 12 co sponsors right now on that bill, which is really exciting. So it was introduced in the Senate and what it would do is it would create a sub program under an existing conservation program called the Environmental Quality Incentives Program that provides Some funding to farmers to do conservation work.
So if they want to put in. So health practices will cover some of the cost for that. If you know there's going to be a decrease in yields, maybe for a couple of years while they transition will cover some of that lost income. If farmers are doing rotational grazing and they need some fencing to support that cover the cost of fencing, things, things like that.
How EQIP works is that it's a competitive program. There's always more demand for it than, um, there's funding available and how NRCS ranks the applications that are coming in. One of the priorities that NRCS looks at is the [00:36:00] scale of the impact. So if you're applying something on more acres, it's going to have a larger impact than when it comes to smaller farms.
Um, we also hear a lot just it's can be very difficult to get through the application. There's a farmer here in Boulder, actually, that I've talked to, and they estimate they put about 80 hours into going through the application, and they did get an EQIP contract, which is amazing. I think it was about 1, 500.
So if you consider the time that they put into that, they really just cover their time. It's not covering the conservation practices that they're going to do. So, there's sort of a disconnect there for smaller farms when it comes to going through the application and getting funding to actually do something that's going to support their ecological goals on their farm.
So, getting back to the marker bill: what the marker bill would do is address some of these challenges that are coming up. So we'd create. There's a sub program under EQIP that would just be for small [00:37:00] farms. There'd also be a contract minimum of 2, 500. So small farms would cover their, you know, their time of going through that application and also make sure there's enough funding left over to cover the costs of the practices that they're doing.
So we're trying to make that program more accessible to folks that are operating on just a small number of acres. I mean. worked on this bill in the last farm bill. I think there's a lot of improvements in this new version that just came out over the version that we worked on in the last farm bill.
So I'm excited to see where it goes and hopefully it gets into the farm bill. Awesome. There's actually one more piece of the bill. Can I talk about that?
Evan: Yeah, absolutely.
Erin: That's It's really focused on soil health practices, but we know those are popular practices in our network. A lot of farmers are doing soil health for a lot of reasons.
The funds that producers [00:38:00] get who are putting in soil health practices are based on per acre. So, um, I don't know what the actual payment is off the top of my head, but say it's like 5 an acre. So if you're, if you have 10 acres, 50 bucks, it's probably not worth going through the whole application process.
So, specifically for soil health practices, the payments for soil health practices would be 150 percent of what a producer would get otherwise. So, if you're on a small farm, instead of having 5 per acre, you get 7. 50 per acre, so it bumps it up a little bit, again, to make it worth people's time to go through the process of the application and putting those practices on their farm.
Evan: Great. In this episode, we also heard a lot about La Samia's community education programming and how impactful having farmer to farmer connections can [00:39:00] be when it comes to skill sharing and supporting each other and community. And I know that another marker bill you and the policy team have been working on supporting is the farmer to farmer education act.
And so I was wondering if we could take a little bit of time. And have you briefly tell us about what that marker bill is going to look like.
Erin: Mm hmm. Yeah, absolutely. So we've been working on the Farmer to Farmer Education Act with Senator Lujan. That bill would fund projects exactly like what La Senilla is doing.
Um, what it would do is invest in communities that are doing education and farming communities that are doing their own education. We know farmers have... a lot of knowledge about how to adapt to climate change, how to conserve water. NRCS has great resources out there , extension has great resources.
There's a lot of good resources out there, but they're not the only ones that hold that knowledge. So this would be investing in communities for community to do their own knowledge [00:40:00] sharing. So we'd fund programsLa Semilla runs, farmer groups could apply for it , tribes could apply for the program to get funding to do their own knowledge sharing within their farming communities.
So really excited to help sort of expand on the technical assistance that USDA already provides. NRCS already does this work in some ways. They can already do cooperative agreements. They already have funding available. Um, so this wouldn't be putting any new money into a program. It'd be again, kind of working within the existing programs to provide NRCS and USDA some guidance on how they can best work with farmers, especially young farmers and farmers of color.
So, that's really the goal of that bill is to make sure that the technical assistance that's being provided to those groups is also in their language is culturally appropriate. So, sometimes farming communities [00:41:00] are the best ones to be doing that. That technical assistance and education outreach because they have a better understanding of the context that producers are working in.
Evan: It's such a good point. So often English and Spanish might be the only languages that applications can be found in. So just like another way that we can identify barriers to these programs that might not be as apparent but do keep people out of them. So I'm glad to hear that those sorts of aspects are getting addressed as well.
Erin: Yeah, I think USDA has a long way to go to. Embrace language justice, so I'm hoping that this bill will be a bit of a nudge and there is language specifically in there that directs, um, groups that are doing these projects that are doing farmer to farmer education to offer the information that they're doing in someone's primary language.
It really directs them to make sure that the. [00:42:00] Information that's provided is in the appropriate language for the groups that they're working for.
Evan: don't know who else we've been working with too for some of these marker bills. I don't know if you want to do like a shout out to any of the other organizations we've been partnering with on either bill.
Erin: Yeah, so in the Farmer to Farmer Education Act, we've been working with American Farmland Trust. They've, um, piloted that model doing some farmer to farmer education with producers in their network, so they've got some experience on that. It's an issue that we've heard a lot from our network, from farmers, different parts of the country, so, so we've been working with them on the bill.
On the Small Farm Conservation Act, we've been working with NSAC, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, um, and so they've got members across the country we've been working with to get this bill introduced into the House.
Evan: Awesome. Well, shout out to them for all the support on these efforts as [00:43:00] well.
Well, Erin, thanks so much for your time today. I think that's a wrap for us.
Erin: All right. Thanks, Evan.
Evan: A big thank you to Julieta and Mario for sharing about their work with La Semilla, to Erin for sharing some exciting farm bill updates, and of course, to Ana for co hosting with me.
The Young Farmers Podcast is a project of the National Young Farmers Coalition. It is produced by myself, Evan Flum, and Jessica Manley, our communications director at The Coalition.
The podcast is edited by the amazing Hannah Beal. Gratitude to Chipotle and 11th Hour for sponsoring our land campaign, and to our many partner organizations for furthering this important work. With us. Make sure to rate, review, and subscribe wherever you stream your [00:44:00] shows and maybe share it with someone you think would like to join the Young Farmers Movement.
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