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UTPA and FSA partner to assist Texas farmers and ranchers
By Gail Fagan, Informational Writer II
381-2741
Posted: 09/12/2003
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An enthusiastic planning group met Sept. 10-11 at The University of Texas-Pan American to discuss the implementation of a new program called HiFARM – Hispanic Farm and Ranch Management Project.

Primarily aimed at Hispanic farmers and ranchers in Texas and New Mexico, this outreach initiative is designed to help these agricultural producers take full advantage of the many loan, disaster assistance and conservation programs funded and administered by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency (FSA).


UTPA Image
A planning session was held at The University of Texas-Pan American for the implementation of the new Hispanic Farm and Ranching Project (HiFARM), a joint outreach program of UTPA’s CoServe and the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Pictured above from left to right are Jorge Comas, Washington D.C. program manager for USDA FSA; Albert Canales, FSA agricultural outreach specialist; Rick Lopez, New Mexico FSA executive director; Juan Garcia, Texas FSA program manager; John Fuston, Texas FSA executive director; George Bennack, program director and director of CoServe’s Rural Outreach Programs; Ismael Delgado, FSA agricultural outreach specialist; D.V. Guerra State FSA committee member; and Omar Garza, FSA agricultural outreach specialist.
Operated through UTPA’s Office of Center Operations and Community Services (CoServe), with assistance from the FSA, HiFARM will provide vital training in risk and financial management, record keeping and Internet/computer use as well as other technical assistance and support to help agricultural operators understand and fully benefit from the FSA programs.

Most of HiFARM’s activities will focus on a 56-county Border Region Area that extends from the Gulf Coast, up the Rio Grande River and through central New Mexico. The Texas portion, which includes 37 counties having 55 percent of the state’s Hispanic agricultural producers, is considered one of the most underserved and economically distressed rural regions in the United States.

Drought, water reservoir shortages, low commodity prices and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have hurt agricultural producers in this region and FSA programs, such as Farm Operating Loans and the Non-Insured Disaster Assistant Program (NAP) can help many of the region’s producers continue to operate and survive.

“This planning meeting has brought together high level FSA officials from Texas, New Mexico and Washington D.C.,” said George Bennack, director of CoServe’s Rural Outreach Programs. “The two days that we spent together have really helped to determine what areas this project will focus on and how it will be implemented.”

Also attending the implementation planning session were Bret Mann, executive director for CoServe; Jorge Comas, Washington D.C. program manager for USDA FSA; John Fuston, Texas FSA executive director; Juan Garcia, Texas FSA program manager; Rick Lopez, New Mexico FSA executive director; D.V. Guerra, State FSA Committee member; and FSA agricultural outreach specialists Omar Garza, Ismael Delgado and Albert Canales.

For additional information on HiFARM, contact Bennack at 956/743-5348 or via e-mail at gbennack@coserve.org

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