The S in ESG
In the latest and one of the most substantial grant opportunities released this year for agriculture-related ESG work, The USDA announced on February 7th; “the USDA is committed to supporting a diverse set of farmers, ranchers, and forest owners through climate solutions that increase resilience, expand market opportunities and strengthen rural America. The new Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities opportunity provides up to $1 billion for pilot projects that create market opportunities for commodities produced using climate-smart practices. USDA is now accepting project applications for the fiscal year 2022.”
This grant reflects the social shift towards an environmentally focused future but also the social shift towards inclusivity and diversity as a mechanism to get there. Based on the USDA’s own research in the Census of Agriculture, there are 3.4 million agricultural producers. Of those 3.4 million producers, 1.4% are Black-owned and operated, 2.3% are American Indian/ Alaska Native producers, and 3.3% of producers are Hispanic. The BIPOC community in agriculture is comparatively quite small to the more than 90% land owned by white farmers.
BIPOC people make up 38.4% of all people in the US. It would be a success to improve diversity in agriculture and make those producer numbers a bit more comparable to the actual population. This is significant especially as we have noticed the trend of people moving into cities and suburbs and not rural farming communities. New incentives from the government could change the way farming works as we know it in the US.
“As we look at applications, we want to make sure that those applications include provisions relating to how they’re going to reach out to underserved producers to incorporate them in the program,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The USDA is making an effort to ensure the growth of climate smart commodity programs will provide an inclusive foundation. Their words exactly are “historically underserved producers.” This effort will ensure results are innovative and incorporate a diverse set of results and ideas. BIPOC people have had fewer opportunities than white producers in America’s long history and this doesn’t level the playing field, but it is a start to something great. The PanXchange team is excited to see where the future of the “S” in ESG is headed.