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New Study Examines Importance and Unique Characteristics of U.S. Female Farmers

Person with tablet standing in front of a herd of cows.

While women can be drawn into farming for many reasons, researchers in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences have found that female-owned farms in the U.S. are more common in areas that are closer to urban markets, that engage in agritourism activity, and that offer greater access to childcare.

The number of farms operated by women has risen over the past two decades, said Claudia Schmidt, assistant professor of marketing and local/regional food systems.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture changed the way it counts the operators of farms in its most recent Census of Agriculture, allowing for up to four principal operators per farm. This has inflated the number of female operators somewhat, but female participation in agriculture is nonetheless at an all-time high, said Schmidt.

“This type of research is needed not just for reasons of equity, but also to support a more diverse and resilient agricultural sector in general,” said Schmidt. “Without knowing more about female farm-operators’ decision making, agricultural service providers have had to make assumptions about the type of information and products that are useful to them. Our analysis shows some of the ways in which female-owned farms are unique and it can offer important insights into how best to serve this population.”

Using data from the U.S. Census of Agriculture from 2002-2017, Schmidt and her colleagues developed a statistical model to examine the relationship between a county’s share of female-operated farms and the conditions in the county. Their goal was to shed light on aspects of the local economic and agricultural ecosystems that are most strongly associated with female-owned farms.

The researchers identified 10 economic variables hypothesized to matter, including unemployment, non-farm wages, availability of childcare, and the rate of female participation in the labor force. They also examined the total number of farms, average farm size and annual sales, average farmer age, and the types of farm activities carried out. They looked at each variable in isolation to determine which variables are independently and most strongly associated with the share of female-operated farms.

“We wanted to understand why women are drawn to farming,” said Stephan Goetz, professor of agricultural and regional economics and director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development (NERCRD). “Is it because they want to engage in this kind of work, or is it because they are pushed into farming due to a lack of other economic opportunities locally? We also wanted to examine how local agricultural conditions — what farming generally looks like in a given place — relate to women’s participation in agriculture.”

The analysis, which was recently published in Food Policy, shows that more female-owned farms are found where average farm size is below 50 acres, where annual farm sales average less than $10,000 per farm, where more farms specialize in grazing sheep or goats, and where agritourism activities — which attract visitors to farms — are more common.

The researchers also found that direct-to-consumer sales are more prevalent in counties with more female-owned farms. It is therefore not surprising that urban areas with high population densities have more female-owned farms than more rural areas do, said Goetz.

“Our findings suggest that females are more likely to engage in the type of farming that benefits from being in or near urban locations,” said Goetz. “In addition to offering more opportunities to market directly to consumers, urban and suburban locations also offer greater access to childcare than rural areas, and our research showed the availability of childcare is correlated with the number of female-owned farms in a county.”

The researchers also noted that the share of farms with female operators is higher in counties with a greater total number of farms, which could reflect increased opportunities for networking and learning through knowledge-sharing networks.

“Our research suggests that female-owned farms are more common in certain economic and agricultural ecosystems,” Schmidt said. “Therefore, they likely have different needs in terms of education and support, and this research is an important step in identifying these differences.”

Among other questions, future research will look at the impact of female-owned farms on local economic and agricultural conditions.

Zheng Tian, a research associate at the NERCRD, also contributed to this research, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture and by Hatch/Multi-State Appropriations under Project #PEN04633 and Accession #1014522.

CMS Announces Additional Navigator Funding to Support Marketplace Special Enrollment Period

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is making approximately $2.3 million in additional funding available to current Navigator grantees in Federally-facilitated Marketplace (FFM) states to support the outreach, education and enrollment efforts around the 2021 Special Enrollment Period (SEP) that runs through May 15, 2021. The 30 organizations eligible to receive these funds work across 28 FFM states to help consumers access financial assistance through, complete their applications, and enroll in coverage through the Marketplace, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

“President Biden has made clear that every American deserves access to quality, affordable health care. Navigators help Americans understand their health insurance options, connecting consumers with financial help, and help them enroll in Marketplace plans, Medicaid, or CHIP,” said Jeff Wu, CMS Acting Deputy Administrator. “During a public health emergency, it is critical for consumers to have access assistance with finding affordable, comprehensive health coverage that best fits their needs.”

Navigators play a key role in reaching underserved communities that historically have experienced lower access to health coverage and greater disparities in health outcomes. Their mission focuses on assisting the uninsured and other vulnerable communities. The additional resources announced today will provide vital support and resources to these communities.

Navigator organizations can determine how best to utilize the additional funding made available by CMS based on their previously approved plans and current needs. CMS will review all updated plans and budget documentation that outline how Navigators plan to use the additional funding to enhance their previously approved program operations for the remainder of the 2020-2021 budget period.

CMS will invest in the future of the Navigator program this year, and plans to increase funding significantly for the upcoming 2021 Navigator Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) grants to facilitate a robust applicant pool and increase access to assistance for consumers in the future.

CMS plans to publish the NOFO this spring to allow sufficient time to award a new round of Navigator grants in advance of Open Enrollment for the 2022 plan year. The current 2020 Navigator grant awards run through August 29, 2021.

For a list of current CMS Navigator grantees, please visit:

To view the Upper Limits for 2020 Navigator Supplemental Funding Allocations, please visit:

USDA Invites Comments on Final Rule to Expand Broadband Access in RuralAmerica Under the ReConnect Program

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that USDA is seeking comments on a final rule to expand broadband service in rural areas by simplifying program requirements to make more companies eligible to participate in USDA’s ReConnect Program.

The rule will eliminate paperwork requirements and will shorten the application process. It also enables an applicant to submit a letter of credit as proof of its financial ability to complete a project. These changes are expected to enable more companies to participate in the ReConnect program, resulting in more broadband coverage in rural areas. The changes take effect April 27, 2021, at the end of a 60-day comment period.

The ReConnect Program offers loans, grants and loan/grant combinations to facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas that do not currently have sufficient access to it.

Comments must be submitted through by April 27, 2021. For additional information, see page 11603 of the February 26, 2021, Federal Register.

CMS: Outreach & Education Resources for Partners during the Pandemic

As COVID-19 vaccines begin rolling out across the country, CMS is taking action to protect the health and safety of our nation’s patients and providers and keeping you updated on the latest COVID-19 resources from HHS, CDC and CMS.

With information coming from many different sources, CMS has compiled resources and materials to help you share important and relevant information on the COVID-19 vaccine with the people that you serve. You can find these and more resources on the COVID-19 Partner Resources Page and the HHS COVID Education Campaign page. We look forward to partnering with you to promote vaccine safety and encourage our beneficiaries to get vaccinated when they have the opportunity.

Promoting COVID-19 Vaccines in Your Community

CDC has designed a COVID-19 vaccine toolkit to help your organization educate community members about COVID-19 vaccines, raise awareness about the benefits of vaccination, and address common questions and concerns. It is full of free digital resources, templates, posters and ideas for how to work within your community to help promote the COVID vaccine.


Know the COVID-19 Vaccine Resources that are Available to You

Use the COVID-19 Resources to Share your Messages

  • Adapt the key messages to the language, tone, and format that will resonate with your community. You know what works in your community.
  • Customize this template letter and send or email it to your community members to introduce your COVID-19 vaccine educational activities.
  • Print copies of the posters and use them as handouts or to hang in highly visible places in your community.
  • Organize a COVID-19 vaccine presentation for your community members and promote it via digital and community communication channels. If your community has internet access, organize a virtual presentation. If it does not, organize an in-person presentation following COVID-19 safety precautions. Ask if your local health department can provide a speaker if you do not have a health educator on staff.
  • Continue to educate your community via articles, blog posts, and CDC social media posts or retweet and share CMS Medicare social media messages on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Invite community members to wear stickers once they have been vaccinated and post vaccination selfies on social media.

Communicate with Your Community

  • Send an introductory letter to encourage your branches, chapters, or affiliates to review and use the toolkit materials, or a letter to members of your organization.
  • Drop the newsletter content into your e-newsletters or listservs to distributed and share information widely on COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Use the COVID-19 Vaccine Basic slide deck for virtual town halls or other informational meetings within your communities. You can use all or part of the set or also include your own organization’s information. Slides are also available in Spanish.
  • Share these key messages about COVID-19 vaccine to educate your communities. These key messages are also available in a printable PDF version.
  • Use the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to help answer questions about COVID-19 vaccine in your communities. FAQs also available in a printable PDF version.
  • Share credible and accurate COVID-19 vaccine information from the Myths & Facts page.
  • Encourage your community members who are vaccinated to enroll in v-safe an after vaccination health checker.

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