One of the nation’s largest farm organizations has signed a memorandum of understanding with a student group aimed at minorities interested in the field to encourage participation in agriculture-related careers.

Leaders of the National Farmers Union and Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences, or MANRRS, signed the agreement Wednesday during a virtual ceremony. In a statement, NFU President Rob Larew said his organization wants to encourage more participation in agriculture among the nation’s minority community, which NFU says currently only makes up about 5% of farmers.

“This lack of racial and ethnic diversity translates to a lack of new ideas, perspectives, and experiences, which holds back progress and innovation for everyone in farming,” Larew said. “Together with MANRRS, which has been doing the important work of promoting diversity in agricultural spaces for 35 years, we hope to ensure that the next generation of agricultural professionals will be more representative of the American population as a whole.”

In the agreement, NFU commits to “motivate and prepare young adults of all racial ethnic groups to pursue careers in agriculture, food, fiber and natural resources systems.” The MOU also includes NFU’s intent to support MANRRS membership “through legislation, research and policy” and connect event attendance and local membership opportunities between the two groups.

For its part, the student group commits to connect its members with local NFU chapters and promote opportunities available to students, “including NFU’s internship program and College Conference on Cooperatives.”

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“The fact that communities of color are not well represented in agriculture is not because they aren’t interested; it’s often because they don’t have access or exposure starting from an early age. As a result, many young people don’t even know that agricultural professions are an option for them,” said MANRRS National President Antomia Farrell.

The MOU is set to stay in place for three years, but can be extended for a fourth.

Many industries, including agriculture, have been grappling with their own approaches to race and diversity in recent months following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the resulting protests that followed.

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