• The San Juan Daily Star

Federal grant funds programs for low-income farmers, fishermen

By John McPhaul

The Agricultural Extension Service (SEA by its Spanish initials) of the College of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Mayagüez Campus (RUM) recently received a federal grant of $750,000 for three years aimed at benefiting socially disadvantaged farmers.

The funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (USDA-OPPE) were obtained through the Outreach & Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers & Ranchers and Veteran Farmers & Ranchers program.

“This project seeks to help socially disadvantaged farmers acquire knowledge about farm management and agribusiness, as well as to train them on how to obtain subsidies or incentives so that they can start or continue the operation of their agribusiness,” said interim UPR President Dr. Mayra Olavarría Cruz.

The main purpose of the program is to provide the socially disadvantaged farmers and fishermen of Puerto Rico with the necessary education, information, and accessible tools to reduce risks in the production and marketing of their products. It also aims to prepare them for future disasters, guide them in requesting funds from federal programs, help improve their financial situation, and help them increase their income and the capital of their companies.

As reported, the grant was approved a fifth time, with the current sum being the largest. In the past 12 years an estimated $1.76 million has been received through the program, reaching some 2,000 participants, mostly farmers and fishermen throughout Puerto Rico who are socially disadvantaged, either due to their ethnic origin, gender, age or level of education.

Some of the activities proposed in the project are educating on farm management and agribusiness in the areas of marketing, agricultural accounting, creation of business and marketing plans, as well as management of computers and applications to improve business administration, among other issues related to the appropriate use of technology. In addition, the participants will continue to be trained in all matters related to obtaining and managing subsidized funds of federal, state and private origin.

The project is directed by Dr. Alexandra Gregory Crespo from the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology at the SEA, and is co-directed by Dr. Myrna Comas Pagán and Dr. Julio C. Hernández from the same department, as well as professor Roberto L. Rigau Lloréns from the Department of Agricultural Education.

Once the project ends, the educational materials and videos from the workshops will be freely accessible on the internet.

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