WASHINGTON — The US Department of Agriculture announced its intention to fund up to $550 million to support underserved producers and to train the next generation of agricultural professionals. The funds are made available through the American Rescue Plan Act.

Up to $300 million will go toward projects intended to increase land, capital and market access for underserved producers. Until Oct. 28, USDA is accepting applications for projects that qualify under this directive.

USDA is also funding the “From Learning to Leading: Cultivating the Next Generation of Diverse Food and Agriculture Professionals” program with $250 million. Eligible applicants are 1890 land-grant institutions, 1994 land-grant institutions, Alaska Native-serving institutions, Native Hawaiian-serving institutions, certified Hispanic-serving institutions and Insular Area institutions of higher education in the United States. The deadline for applications is Oct. 25.

“These funding opportunities are historic and part of USDA’s unwavering commitment to advancing equity for all, including people who have been underserved, marginalized and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“Land access, heirs’ property, affordable credit and access to reliable markets — along with consistent access to help from well-trained experts — are essential to strengthening our communities,” he added. “USDA is equally committed to partnering with minority-serving institutions to establish exciting and fulfilling pathways for Next Generation leaders to have careers in agriculture, nutrition, food, development and in the federal government.”

This announcement is the latest to support USDA’s Equity Action Plan, released in February, which provides a framework for the agency’s commitment to equity in decision-making and a diverse and inclusive workforce.