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September 18, 2019

Celebrating the Rich Heritage of Hispanics and U.S. Agriculture

Honoring the contributions of Hispanic farmers for National Hispanic Heritage Month.

The United States’ agriculture industry is more diverse than most people realize. American agriculture has been greatly enriched by the contributions of many cultures and nationalities. All across the States, farmers and ranchers come from many different walks of life, but where they differ in backgrounds, they find common ground with a love of working the land and raising livestock. For generations, people of Hispanic heritage have brought this passion and skill to United States agriculture, and National Hispanic Heritage Month, which begins on September 15, is a great reminder of this.

Hispanics Making History

Hispanic Heritage Month: the very word, “heritage,” reminds us to reflect on the past and pay tribute to those who made history and paved the way for future generations. This month, we recognize the hard work of the thousands of immigrants who have participated in America’s agricultural tradition at all levels of production, from corn farms to citrus groves and everything in between. As a whole, their contribution to farm labor deserves to be recognized and appreciated.

While we honor the masses, there are some individuals whose accomplishments stand out and merit recognition. Former U.S. Representative Eligio “Kika” de la Garza II, for example: In his 13-year tenure as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee (1981-1994), he passed three farm bills, as well as the Agricultural Credit Act of 1987. He played a key role in fostering a positive trades relationship between the United States and Mexico and contributed to the establishment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Rep. de la Garza is just one example of Latino leaders who have worked to improve the agriculture sector of the U.S.

Honoring Hispanics Today

As the agriculture industry shifts and evolves, one constant is the presence and growth of Hispanic farmers. The data confirms this: In a span of five years, the total number of Hispanic farm operators increased by 21%, from 82,462 in 2007 to 99,734 in 2012. According to the United States Department of Agriculture Census, 67,000 of those Hispanic farmers were principal operators. Together, they were responsible for $8.6 billion in agricultural products, operating 21 million acres of farmland. It’s clear that today’s Hispanic farmers are contributing to the legacy of those who came before them, creating even more reasons to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Preparing for an Even Brighter Future

Acknowledging past and present successes is vital—but so is preparing for an even brighter future. There are many tools, programs, and resources available to Hispanic farmers to help them succeed in their agricultural endeavors. For example, the USDA sponsors the E. Kika De La Garza Fellowship, which gives individuals from Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) the opportunity to increase their understanding of research and policymaking at the USDA and other federal agencies in Washington, D.C. Through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), HSIs can apply for the HSI Grant Program, which seeks to enhance the food and agricultural scientific and professional workforce across the nation.  Additionally, the USDA works with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) to place students in internship opportunities in various agricultural careers through the HACU National Internship Program (HNIP).

Besides federal programs, there are plenty of individual institutions doing their part to prepare Hispanics for careers in agriculture. Adelante Mujeres is one such admirable organization. Their Sustainable Agriculture program, based in Oregon, provides training to Latino farmers and gardeners to help them sustainably grow nutritious, healthy food, and then market their products.

Celebrating the Diverse Agricultural Workforce

All of these programs can prepare Hispanic farmers for increased prosperity in the years to come. For those looking to invest in their future, it might be necessary to take out a loan to launch a successful agricultural enterprise. At AgAmerica, we welcome the opportunity to work with the Hispanic community. We cater our programs and services to the specific needs of the agriculture industry, offering a variety of land loans and assistance to America’s amazingly diverse agriculture community. Learn more by speaking with one of our lending experts today.

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