Building Resiliency: Alcorn State University
May 24, 2023
RMA’s Building Resiliency program aims to provide training and certification assistance to prospective crop insurance agents and adjusters in disadvantaged communities. Among the partners assisting us in this effort are the Intertribal Agriculture Council, Annie’s Project, Rural Coalition and Alcorn State University.
The Risk Management Education Division recently gave three presentations to potential enrollees at Alcorn State University meetings in the Southeast.
I spoke with the organizer of the events, Walter Jackson, who is also the Project Director for Building Resiliency at Alcorn State. Walter works with community-based organizations and stakeholders in identifying individuals in the community that are showing interest in becoming crop insurance agents or adjusters.
Project Director Walter Jackson
Building Resiliency Program
Alcorn State University
“The Building Resiliency program is a golden opportunity to educate minority communities and farmers about agricultural risk,” he explains. “It is a chance to teach and certify underserved individuals who otherwise could not afford materials and tuition.”
Walter grew up in a town called Ruleville on the Mississippi Delta and holds a master’s degree in Agronomy from Alcorn State University. He has an extensive background, including serving as a County Extension Agent, a State Agronomist with NRCS, and a National Management and Program Analyst with FPAC.
“Some of the challenges that African American growers face are financial constraints, not understanding all that's available, and keeping up with evolving policies,” he shares. “African American participation in crop insurance is very low. Lack of knowledge is the leading cause. Many live on marginal profits and view insurance premiums as just another expense.”
It is my hope that the Building Resiliency program addresses the lack of understanding in socially disadvantaged areas of the country. With the development of agents from underserved communities, we should be in a better position to inform and educate those we are trying to reach.
“When I discovered that RMA was funding this program, my initial thoughts were: opportunity, opportunity, opportunity!" Walter tells me. “For so long African Americans have been unable to break into the crop insurance industry.”
More than 50 individuals attended RMA’s presentations sponsored by Alcorn State. Other partners have also told us that they are seeing a high level of interest in the pilot.
“It is my expectation to see a pool of highly qualified and certified adjusters and agents available to compliment the workforce,” Walter adds. “Building Resiliency will help make great strides in ensuring that African American farmers and ranchers invest in managing risk.”
Alcorn State and other organizations supporting the Building Resiliency program have helped develop a curriculum of training. Our goal is to see classes begin early next year. So far, we seem well on track to meet that objective.
“The best way for USDA to improve the assistance provided to African American ranchers and growers is to continue to listen to the voices of land users,” Walter says. “Then create and fund programs, like Building Resiliency, that are designed to meet the needs of underserved groups.”
I’m so grateful to Walter and the partners helping us ensure the resiliency of farmers and ranchers now and into the future!
In the coming weeks we will announce several new education projects we are funding that are also designed to assist underserved communities. More to come!
Marcia Bunger is the Administrator of USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). Prior to her appointment, she served as a County Executive Director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency. A native South Dakotan, Bunger is also the owner and operator of a 2000-acre farm, a cum laude graduate of Augustana College, and the first member of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and first woman to serve as RMA Administrator.