Latino farmers and USDA agents talk about challenges to access and use of USDA programs
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According to the U.S. Census of Agriculture, 25% of Missouri Latino farmers and rancher stopped farming and ranching operations from 2002 to 2007, even though the population of Latinos was increasing across the state. One possibility was that Latino farmers and ranchers were not effectively accessing USDA support programs. In order to better understand this dramatic decline in the number of Latino farmers and ranchers and to identify ways to improve access and use of USDA programs by Latino farmers and ranchers, 30 farmers and ranchers and five USDA agents were interviewed in southwest, Missouri. Factors such as cultural influence, English communication, insufficient network connections, poor business literacy and a lack of technical knowledge on farming and ranching, constrained the farmers and ranchers from maintaining a productive and sustainable relationship with the USDA. These factors were mentioned by all of the individuals interviewed. In addition, they agreed that one of the main challenges is to create a communication bridge that begins to explore and analyze Latino farmers and ranchers qualifications for access and use of USDA programs. This bridge may facilitate a better understanding of the need for Latino farmers and ranchers to access and use USDA programs, as well as improve their understanding of programs and services offered by the USDA. Improving relationships between Latino farmers and ranchers and USDA resource agencies can assist these producers with establishing and growing their enterprises, as well as influence the Latino farmers and ranchers socioeconomic integration into the broader community.