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Friday, July 16, 2010 - 10:17am

Grants Help Minority Farmers

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grant money are going to southwest Georgia to help disadvantaged and minority farmers. Officials hope to use the funds to get them up-to-speed on available programs and new technology.

An official with Albany State University says a 10-percent group of southwest Georgia farmers classified as “minority or disadvantaged” is most in need. That need is for education outreach on available federal programs to help farmers stay competitive in the marketplace.

A program through the school will distribute one of a pair of $400,000 grants.

ASU president Everette Freeman says the money aims to address a number of issues facing minority farmers.

"Problems ranging from inability to achieve and secure loans, to having the right equipment, having equipment made available to them, getting loans for equipment. And more importantly, getting products to market.”

Mark Masters with Albany State’s Water Planning and Policy Center says a chunk of the money will be used to build "model farms" that show farmers the latest industry advances -- especially in irrigation management.

“That helps us then tell the story to others that are how there and say ‘hey, this technology is out there, it’s a benefit to you’. Hopefully, we can turn this into a more widespread adoption.”

The other $400,000 grant is being handled by an organization that helps African-American farmers, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives.

An FSC official says this grant money has nothing to do with more than a $1 billion included in a jobs and tax bill tied-up in Congress. That money is part of compensation proposed for black farmers nationwide as part of a settlement from a 1999 lawsuit.

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