WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced more than $6 million in grants to institutions and organizations who conduct training, outreach and technical assistance for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

"These programs are designed to help producers develop new profitable farming practices and increase their farm or ranch income," Vilsack said. "President Obama has pledged to ensure that government is inclusive and USDA is committed to that pledge and to opportunities that support a diverse population of producers who might not otherwise seek our support."

These grants enable organizations to help farmers and ranchers successfully acquire, own, operate and retain farms and ranches and to assure equitable participation in the full range of USDA programs. Local and regional impacts include participants setting up production and marketing cooperatives, participating in policy-making agriculture boards, improving environmental quality and improving their profitability and sustainability.

USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service administers the grants though its Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers program. This competitive grants program is open to institutions of higher education and community-based non-profit organizations that provide capacity-building training and assistance to local farmers and ranchers. A socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher is one of a group whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice without regard to their individual qualities.

Fiscal year 2008 awards include:

Alabama A&M University, $300,000
Tuskegee University, $300,000
University of Alaska - Anchorage, $297,513
Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation, $279,436
University of Arkansas - Pine Bluff, $300,000
University of California, $189,975
Delaware State University, $299,908
Florida A&M University, $299,835
Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Inc., $299,370
University of Hawaii, $297,224
University of Hawaii - Hilo, $300,000
Alcorn State University, $299,331
Tufts University, $299,617
Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, $290,000
New Mexico State University, $296,000
The North Carolina Coalition of Farm and Rural Families, $300,000
Langston University, $300,000
Mvskoke Food Sovereignty Initiative, $265,523
South Dakota State University, $289,245
Tennessee State University, $300,000
North-South Institute, $299,155