WASHINGTON, DC – With 2023 Farm Bill events around the country in full swing, last week the Black Professionals in Food and Agriculture (BPFA) organization held a policy event, “Getting to the Root: Prioritizing Equity and Inclusion in the 2023 Farm Bill,” to examine topics including farm credit, program funding, and land benefits that have historically been less accessible to Black farmers, ranchers, women, and members of minority groups.
“BPFA’s mission is to ensure Black voices are heard and represented in the development of policies and programs that serve America’s farmers and ranchers,” said Kellie Adesina, co-founder of the organization.
In addition to panels featuring food and ag policy experts, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service Administrator Daniel Whitley addressed the event. He spoke about the unprecedented increase of diversity in USDA leadership and the agency’s commitment to dismantling the systematic discrimination that has disenfranchised minority farmers and ranchers for generations.
Whitley, who was a keynote speaker at the 2021 USA Rice Outlook Conference, also enthusiastically shared the success story of Arkansas rice farmers and co-owners of Arkansas River Rice Mill, PJ Haynie and Billy Bridgeforth.
Arkansas River Rice, located in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, is the only Black-owned rice mill in the United States. The mill was one of many stops on the USDA-sponsored Cochran Fellowship Programs hosted by USA Rice last summer which resulted in Haynie and Bridgeforth contracting 180 MT of U.S.-grown long grain for export to Cameroon through the Food for Peace program. They also recently secured a McGovern-Dole Food for Education contract that will send U.S. rice to Kyrgyzstan in May.
Whitley acknowledged USA Rice’s role in representing the industry in overseas markets and aiding farmers like Haynie and Bridgeforth in making positive connections with tangible results.
Bridgeforth is the chair emeritus, and Haynie is the current chair of the National Black Growers Council (NBGC). USA Rice is partnering with NBGC and Ducks Unlimited in the USDA Climate-Smart Commodity program that will impact 400,000 acres of working ricelands and enable growers to improve air, water, and soil quality that will reduce greenhouse gases and make a substantial impact on the environment in the future.