Hispanic Farming and Ranching in the United States

An important, national-level investigation shows small-scale Hispanic farmers and ranchers in the United States have special needs for information about government programs, agricultural production, marketing and finances, and that these producers are best identified not by location of their enterprises or the types of farming involved, but by their key farm goals.

Investigators from the University of Florida’s Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences Department undertook a description and analysis of the issues facing Hispanic & Latino farmers and ranchers, using a multi-method approach involving self-completion questionnaires and personal interviews of members of the target population and service providers who work with them. The work was undertaken from September 2006 to September 2007 on behalf of USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service and the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program.

Investigators compiled an annotated bibliography from published and unpublished literature about and relevant to Hispanic producers across the country.  Investigators also developed a listing and description of public and private organizations serving this population.  Both the bibliography and the list of organizations are included in the final report:  application/pdf hispanic_full_report.pdf (1.35 MB).

This report has been prepared with support from the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Services (CSREES) /Economic and Community Systems (ECS) and Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE).

After reviewing the existing information, researchers undertook the extensive investigation of the constraints faced by Hispanic farmers and ranchers.  The investigators used questionnaires and interviewed with the producers themselves, as well as the extension professionals who work most closely with them.

The study area focused on California, New Mexico, Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, the four states and territory that have the highest number of Hispanic farmers and ranchers, according to the 2002 Agricultural Census.  Investigators also focused on Missouri because it might face different issues than the other more populated states/territories.

The study showed that Hispanic producers are best identified not by location or the types of farming, but by their key farm goals—expand operation; maintain operation; retirement; maintain tradition; and beginning farmers and ranchers. Immigrant farmers are a distinct but small group.

The analysis identified research and outreach priorities to meet the needs of Hispanic producers, as well as suggested funding and programming priorities for USDA agencies.  The following points emerged as particularly relevant to the development of programs to serve Hispanic clients:

Language: Most clients do not see lack of Spanish-speaking service providers or Spanish-language publications as a major problem. Are translation services, therefore, the best use of scarce resources?

Information gap: While outreach providers believe their Hispanic clients do not take sufficient advantage of information, services, and programs, these clients are often unaware of what is available.

Access to government programs: In some cases, producers perceive government programs as difficult to access. How can we create more effective working relationships with these clients and the organizations representing them?

Special programs: The goals and constraints of Hispanic producers are often similar to those of many small-scale farmers and ranchers.  In some states and territories, however, this is not the case. How far should resources be allocated to the shared needs of the whole population, versus the specific needs of certain groups or states?