Conservation and Equity: Soto-Gomez to Detail NRCS Efforts at Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference

By Codi Coulter

Bianca Soto-Gomez will appear at this year’s Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference on a panel titled “Using Legal Education to Increase Equitable Participation in NRCS Conservation Programs.” Other panelists include Sarah Hirsh, Ph.D., an extension agent with University of Maryland Extension, and Sarah Everhart, the Agriculture Law Education
Initiative’s senior research associate and legal specialist. For more information about the Conference and to register, visit go.umd.edu/umlawconfreg21.

Soto-Gomez is a District Conservationist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office in Delaware. NRCS strives to help with soil health practices, community outreach, farmers markets and events, and more. In her role, she
works to provide farmers with technical and financial assistance related to on-farm conservation.

In addition to her role at NRCS, Soto-Gomez and her husband own a produce farm. They began growing mushrooms and have expanded their operations to include other vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, and radishes. In her farming operation, Soto-Gomez has used NRCS programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to fund the construction of a seasonal high tunnel, which extends the growing season.

At the conference, Soto-Gomez will discuss how NRCS is reaching historically underserved farmers, including Black, Hispanic, Asian, and veteran farmers, to ensure they have equitable access to the technical and financial assistance programs. According to Soto-Gomez, “when you work with these communities and provide good customer service, they can help
spread the word within their communities about the NRCS programs. The agency is working toward equity in the communities. It’s a process that’s not completely finished; it still can improve.” Part of that process that Soto-Gomez will discuss during the panel are the funding incentives for these communities to encourage participation in NRCS programs.

To learn more and hear from Soto-Gomez, register for the seventh annual Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference, being held virtually Nov. 17-18. You can register at go.umd.edu/umlawconfreg21.

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