Mini-Coop Option(s)

Download Grant Application: Mini-Coop.doc (52KB)

07 November 2007
Re: Outreach to Assist Ozark Area Socially Disadvantaged Farmers & Ranchers

This request for a training and technical assistance grant of $300,000 ($100,000 per year x 3-years) is being made by Needful Provision, Inc. (NPI), an established 501(c)(3) charity based in NE Oklahoma. Grant funds will be used to train not less than 50 Hmong refugee/ immigrant farmers located in the Ozarks (OK, AR, & MO). NPI has developed a program to help train Hmong farmers, from the subject refugee group, in methods to start and sustain organic food production to diversify farm income ---and also provide their own food security. Other socially disadvantaged farmers, from the Ozarks and other areas, may also be trained as time and resources permit. You may see several of NPI’s projects on our website (www.needful NPI’s status, and financials, may be confirmed on GuideStar’s website (

In brief, NPI is focused on community food security, biosecurity, microenterprise development, alternative energy, “zero net-energy” housing, homeland security, and leadership development --with special emphasis on organic food production. NPI has a 50-acre training facility, in Cherokee County Oklahoma, that will be used to support this project. The 50 Hmong farmers will be organized into 10 mini-coops (w/ 5 farmers each) that will each primarily produce a single organic food to be offered to Whole Foods at a fair price. Whole Foods is being asked to provide $1 million (if approved, $100,000 per coop) in long-term, low interest loans to help these farmers start production. NeuVerde Energy is also providing a $300,000 grant, to NPI, to help pay for technical support for farmers. All total, subject project is planned as a $1.6 million effort over 3-years.

Background for the Hmong: The Hmong, a rather primitive tribal people, are mostly from Laos (and China before that). Hmong paramilitary forces in Laos, organized and supported by the CIA, engaged in the rescue of American POWs and downed U.S. Air Force pilots throughout the Vietnam (Viet-Nam) War. These same paramilitary forces were able to stop the 312th and 316th NVA (North Vietnamese Army) Regiments from moving through Laos into South Viet-Nam. As a result hundreds of American soldiers were saved from certain death, at a cost of several thousand Hmong being killed. When the U.S. abandoned South Viet-Nam, they also abandoned Laos. When communist forces seized control only a very few Hmong were evacuated to prevent their immediate execution by the communists. The balance of the Hmong were forced to hide and then flee for their lives. Communist efforts to kill all the Hmong have been sustained since the war, and those Hmong lucky enough to escape Laos find their way into Hmong refugee camps in northern Thailand.

The Thai government demanded that the U.S. accept some of these refugees, and our government has continued to do so -----although the numbers are somewhat low due to some political opposition to U.S. resettlement of the Hmong. As a matter of practice, the U.S. Government (USG) provides very little support for Hmong refugees. Faith-based organizations, and some local governments, have acted to provide some assistance for the Hmong in states where they were “dumped.” Last summer, yet another 15,000 Hmong refugees were brought to the U.S. with some families placed in the Ozarks ---joining other Hmong families who have relocated there. These Hmong have yet to find all the support they need, and many are attempting to farm without the skills and/or resources needed to be successful in a technically complex agricultural environment.

Purpose of Training & Technical Assistance: Tanya Patterson, who directs an Ozark-area English-As-A-Second Language Program, teaches many of the Hmong (adults & youth), and her Hmong students tell her that they have critical needs that are not being met --and they have limited means to meet those needs. These needs include potable water, food, clothing, shelter, health care, jobs training, employment and self-employment programs, transportation needs, Citizenship education, literacy and regular education, English language training, and so on. Frank Head, Director of Catholic Charities Immigration Services, in Springdale, Arkansas, has confirmed these needs for subject Hmong refugees in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. NPI also conducted a needs survey for 30 of these Hmong families, and confirmed that they are impoverished and socially disadvantaged. There are 586 Hmong families who have relocated to the Ozarks with over 90 percent earning a poverty-level income from contract poultry farming. Not less than 17 of these Hmong have already been forced to undertake a farm bankruptcy (data from Henry Law Firm, Fayetteville, AR). NPI will train not less than 50 Hmong farmers in the planning, financing, development, operation, and management of farm mini-cooperatives (to produce organic foods, and related value-added products) that will generate the income required to fully sustain the Hmong (by means of adequate income). NPI will use subject Hmong model to soon replicate the effort with Mexican, Native American, & other socially disadvantaged farmers in the Ozarks (and elsewhere).

NPI’s Related Staff Experience: NPI’s President (Nuttle) worked with various Montagnard tribes of Viet-Nam for 3-years, and with the Hmong, of Laos, for 2-years. Many Hmong leaders know him personally, and they know the positive value of his past assistance to the Hmong. Charles A. Gourd, Ph.D. (a Cherokee) worked on Hmong resettlement issues when the first Hmong refugees came to the U.S. NPI’s other staff members and volunteers are skilled in assisting tribal peoples, and we have several current projects with indigenous populations. The NPI facilities in Cherokee County, Oklahoma are equipped to provide training in aquaculture, aquaponics, algalculture, sustainable crop and livestock systems, alternative energy, microenterprise development, self-help types of home construction, and other skills. NPI has already trained some Hmong farmers over the last 3-years. Karen M. Lees, NPI’s Director of Training, has 25-years of experience planning, preparing, and delivering training for special needs populations such as the Hmong. Lao Xiong, a Hmong, is fluent in English with a B.A. in Business. Lao will provide support and language translation. NPI has developed special training and development courses used for tribal peoples in the U.S., and overseas.

(Langston University will provide training support to NPI under a subcontract, and their capabilities and experience are shown in an addendum to this proposal.)

Urgency of Request: Hmong refugees lack the technical and management skills needed to long survive as farmers and/or entrepreneurs in the U.S. Many of the subject Hmong refugees purchased small farms using 05 percent down payments, and 95 percent USDA/FSA guaranteed farm loans. The Hmong often paid far too much for their farms, and believed that potential farm income was far higher than what was possible. As a result, over 30 more of these Hmong farmers may soon need to complete Chapter 12 farm bankruptcies. To help many Hmong farmers recover, and to prevent repetition of similar failures, technical and management training is urgently needed along with instruction in effective development of farm and community food systems. The Hmong also need training on how to effectively utilize USDA programs. Proper analysis of potential farm income will also be taught to help reduce future financial abuses. (A list of training subjects is shown in Appendix A.)

Project Overview: NPI will use its 50-acre training farm (with relevant, proven organic food production models), in Cherokee County, OK, to provide training, on-the-job training, tutorial instruction, training DVDs, and sustained technical guidance for not less than 50 poor, socially disadvantaged Hmong farmers (in the Ozarks). NPI will also provide its unique, proprietary organic food production technologies, to these farmers, at no cost to said farmers. These inputs will support the operation of 10 (ten) specialized organic food production coops ------ to produce organic foods primarily for Whole Foods, with surplus foods being sold for use by organic school lunch programs, food coops, and to local farmers markets. An agreement has already been signed with Oaks Mission School (a Native American school serving the Ozarks) to provide food for an organic school lunch program. Ozark Natural Foods Coop, in nearby Fayetteville, AR, has indicated a desire to buy most of subject foods not purchased by others. The resulting mini-coops, and innovative planned organic food production techniques, will be used for replicate projects with other socially disadvantaged farmers.

Description of the 10 (ten) Mini-Coops: Each of the coops will be operated by 5 (five) Hmong farmers, and each coop will only produce a primary organic food item (plus some fruit and certain produce) with production planned and staged to meet the quantity, delivery times, as well as delivery dates for Whole Foods. To wit:

1) Produce (Vegetable) production by means of organic aquaponics using organic, sand-filtered manure effluent “teas” for fertilizer. Some production would be in basic greenhouse structures for organic produce production 24/7/365. (Surplus production area may be used for herbs and cut flowers, to meet market needs.)

2) Mushrooms produced with specialized production techniques for each variety of mushroom; e.g. organic shiitake grown on hardwood logs.

3) Range Eggs from layers in mobile layer houses moved every 3-days on clean, organic pasture lands. Supplemental organic feeds are fed as needed. Predator protection is provided by portable electro-net poultry yards attached to the mobile poultry houses.

4) Range Broilers (poultry) for various chicken products/foods, produced by the same means as for range eggs.

5) Fish grown in organic aquaculture systems using organic fish feeds (foods) to include some microalgae grown in organic algalculture systems (with algae used as the primary feed for algae-eating fish such as tilapia).

6) Pork produced using sustainable, outdoor, humane, and organic hog production with hogs on pasture having portable shelters for farrowing ---and trap-pens for feeding organic grains to feeder pigs.

7) Beef production based on sustainable, outdoor, humane, and organic cow-calf operations with yearlings fed an organic feed ration for 90-day finishing prior to being slaughtered. (Sheds or portable sheds will be used for protection from bad weather.)

8) Mutton shall be produced using meat breeds of hair-sheep prepared for market with the same basic organic techniques as for beef ---but only 45-days of finishing feed.

9) Specialized Grains, such as organic Amaranth, will be produced as requested by Whole Foods. Organic compost fertilizers, and/or other organic fertilizers would be used to provide nutrients needed. If irrigation were required, drip-irrigation would be used to conserve as much water as possible.

10) Goat Meat would be produced by the same organic techniques as for mutton as needed for market demands. An organic dairy, for milk and cheese, is also an option. (When a demand for goat meat and/or milk is not sufficient, this mini-coop could also engage in produce production as described above. In event of serious problems with bird flu, NPI would organize a mini-coop to engage in biosecure, organic poultry production.)

Evaluation Plan: Whole Foods, the probable primary buyer of organic foods produced by Hmong mini-coops, will evaluate the quality and quantity of organic foods produced; e.g. produce (vegetables), range broilers (poultry), range eggs, mushrooms, herbs, beef, pork, mutton, fish, and so on. In addition, Whole Foods training specialists will evaluate the quality of training provided by NPI, and its subcontractor, Langston University. In general, if farmers are making a good living and providing fresh, healthful, organic foods as desired by their customer(s), success should be self-evident. (NPI will keep records on the pre-project and post-project income for subject farmers.)

Publicity Plan: NPI will announce subject project on its website (, and by making a press release. Two or three articles will be written for farming and enterprise development magazines. USDA/ CSREES will be given full credit for its financial contributions to NPI’s subject efforts for the Hmong, and later for other socially disadvantaged farmers.

NPI’s Board Members: Shown below along with their organizational affiliations--

1. David A. Nuttle - NPI
2. Michael W. Chilton - Ag Alternatives
3. Karen M. Lees - NPI
4. Randy D. Gibson - Cherokee Nation
5. Kate Kelly - Tahlequah Chamber

Project Budget Summary:

A. Instructor salaries (3 instructors) --------------- $ 44,500
B. Completion of Agricultural training models ------- 69,300
C. Training costs for 50 Hmong refugees ----------- 116,200
D. Services from Langston Univ. --------------------- 70,000
Sub-total ---------------------------------------------- 300,000
E. Long-term Technical Support --------------------- 300,000 (NueVerde Energy)
F. Coop & Food Production Starts ----------------- 1,000,000 (Whole Foods)
Total ----------------------------------------------- $1,600,000

Comment: Since the Hmong supported the U.S. during the Vietnam War, at a cost of over 270,000 Hmong killed in combat, we believe Americans have an obligation to support Hmong refugees. U.S. Special Operations personnel (U.S. Army Special Forces and CIA Special Operations Officers) rely on the support of indigenous (tribal) groups, such as the Hmong, worldwide. For this reason it is important to assist and support the refugees/ immigrants from these groups. (Tribal groups everywhere know how tribal refugees are treated in the U.S. when they receive such information via annual United Nation’s “Indigenous Rights Forums.”)

Please advise if USDA/ CSREES can provide the above said $300,000 grant to supplement $1,300,000 presumed as available for subject effort(s). Thank you.

David A. Nuttle, President

P.S. You may see a summary of NPI’s basic training program, along with photographs of NPI’s training models, on NPI’s website ( ---- under the topic “Hmong Project Briefing.” (NPI has already worked with Hmong farmers for more than 3-years.)
N.B. 1) Based on years of experience, NPI’s staff knows that farm coops for most ethnic minorities need to be small (no more than 5 people from the same clan, speaking the same language). We also know that these coops are far more successful if each one will primarily produce a single food crop, and/or related value-added product.

2) On 04 October 2007, U.S. Senators Harkin, Obama, Biden, Conyers, Thompson, Davis, Nadler, Scott, and Chabot all signed a letter to President Bush regarding USDA employees “who lobby illegally to undermine remedial Civil Rights legislation.” USDA
was fined by a District court, in the Pigford case, for extensive, long-term discrimination against black farmers. NPI has considerable evidence of USDA’s discrimination against other minority farmers, to include the Hmong. The American Nazi Party (a hate group) reports that some of their supporters have infiltrated federal agencies for the purpose of using “subtle sabotage” to reduce support and funds for minorities. Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has confirmed such neo-Nazi activity. (As a result, NPI will assume
USDA may not provide funds for its part of subject effort.)

DVD Concept & List of Training DVDs for Hmong Organic Farmers
After years of training minority and socially disadvantaged farmers, NPI’s staff has confirmed the need for tutorial and on-the-job training ---as well as training DVDs to reinforce instruction on a sustained basis. NPI’s staff and Langston University’s staff will perfect a series of training DVDs in support of subject OASDFR effort. The presentations will be in the Hmong language, with English subtitles. (When used to instruct other minorities, speaking other languages, the presentation language will be changed.) All instruction is basic and simplified. DVDs include the following topics:

- Farm Acquisition/ Retention (purchase, rent/ lease, sustained operation)

- Farm Appraisals & Valuation

- Contracts & Agreements

- Farm & Business Plans

- Financial Analysis, Budgeting, & Plans

- Record Keeping & Tax Returns

- Resource & Energy Conservation

- Processing & Marketing

- Value-Added Products & Microenterprises

- Farm Coop Organization & Management

- Working w/ Real Estate Agents, Lawyers, & Bankers

- Utilization of USDA Programs

- Risk Management Techniques

- Community Supported Agriculture (CSA formation)

- Community Relations & Public Programs

- Relationships w/ Schools & Teachers (for families w/ children)

- Organic Certification

- Sustainable Organic Food Production
(One DVD for each food product to be produced)
N.B. There would be 13 organic food production DVDs w/ one for each of the 10 food items listed in NPI’s proposal, plus one each for dairy, biosecure poultry, and fruit. (The non-production training is designed to improve overall efficiency of project farmers.)

NPI’S Responses to CSREES Reviewer Comments on NPI’s Similar OASDFR Project (for 2006)
For each of the following, the letter “c” will indicate the CSREES reviewer comment of question, and the letter “r” indicates NPI’s response.

1c. NPI’s effort to train 200 Hmong farmers may be handicapped by working with too many farmers at the same time.
1r. There seems to be some validity to this observation, so NPI reduced the number of Hmong farmers to be trained, to 50 total.

2c. It may be too late to help some Hmong farmers who have declared bankruptcy, or who may soon be forced to declare bankruptcy.
2r. NPI’s OASDFR project, as proposed herein, will be limited to Hmong farmers with the immediate potential of financial viability if given needed help. (Hmong farmers who have taken bankruptcy, or who are near bankruptcy, will not be assisted under this effort.)

3c. There must be some means to improve the finances, for Hmong farmers, on an immediate basis if financial crises are to be avoided.
3r. NPI will be assisting Hmong farmers with immediate financial reorganization, and providing long-term, low-interest loans to assist in soon starting income diversification projects for their farms. (As noted above, farmers near financial collapse are excluded.)

4c. NPI does not have sufficient qualified training resources for such a large project.
4r. Far more training resources will now be available since Langston University has been added to the project, and NPI has also doubled its own training resources for this project.

5c. NPI’s innovative organic food technologies may not be tested or ready for adoption.
5r. All of NPI’s proposed technologies have each been tested and demonstrated for more than 3-years. NPI is already using these technologies in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, so we know they are ready for immediate adoption.

6c. NPI’s technologies may not be actually viable. (There is no basis for this comment.)
6r. All of NPI’s proposed technologies were fully tested by NPI’s staff, and by reliable third parties such as Research Triangle Institute, and others.

7c. NPI needs to have funding from several sources to make the proposed OASDFR project truly functional.
7r. More funding sources have been added, as suggested.

8c. The evaluation plan needs to have more details, and the cost of evaluation needs to be held to a minimum.
8r. A detailed evaluation plan will be presented in an Appendix, to this proposal, and a reduced budget for evaluation will be fully justified therein.

9c. There needs to be a feasibility study, as well as more details for both the management and marketing plans.
9r. A detailed feasibility study, plus expanded management and marketing plans will be presented in their own individual Appendix shown with this proposal.

10c. Stakeholder involvement needs to be increased.
10r. NPI’s staff is meeting with Hmong farmers and their families, at their homes and farms, for the purpose of conducting extensive interviews ---and to get the Hmong to help plan as well as design the proposed OASDFR effort. Such interviews with over 30 Hmong families have been completed, and the effort continues. NPI is also meeting with local Hmong groups/ organizations to elicit their support in project design.

11c. NPI has not detailed the problems for Hmong farmers. (This comment is not valid.)
11r. For more than 3-years, NPI has been sending detailed reports to USDA/ FSA and HHS/ ORR providing extensive information on the problems of Hmong farmers. In brief, nearly all are engaged in contract poultry farming at a time when net income from such operations is extremely limited (USDA/ ERS data) ---and costs of most inputs are increasing. Most paid far too much for their farms, and believed the lies they were told about the net income potential for old poultry farms. The banks provided loans for the Hmong to buy farms, with no requirement for prior farming experience, because the USDA/FSA was providing 90/ 95 percent guaranteed farm loans. Given the actual income realized, very few Hmong farmers could pay all expenses and provide debt service with enough income left to pay living expenses. All this means that the Hmong are being forced to develop the means to provide alternative and supplemental income.

Documentation of the said Hmong problems may be found in the 17 farm bankruptcies, filed by the Henry Law Firm, of Fayetteville, AR, for 17 Hmong farmers. There are a few similar cases filed by other lawyers. NPI’s staff has reviewed all of these bankruptcies, and the causes for these bankruptcies. In addition, NPI has reviewed the racketeering complaints against two Ozark-area banks that were programming (pre-planning) bankruptcies for Hmong farmers to collect on inflated farm loan guarantees from USDA/ FSA. Ozark-area attorneys, Carla Wasson and Joey Schmidt are working on the said racketeering complaints. NPI has carefully documented related civil rights violations, by USDA employees, against the subject Hmong farmers (USDA/ OIG Complaint No. 07-0538). In summary, NPI has detailed and documented problems of Hmong farmers in great detail.

N.B. As previously noted, USDA has engaged in extensive as well as long-term discrimination against minority farmers as proven before the courts in the Pigford case.
At least a few USDA reviewers will look for any and every excuse not to fund NPI’s subject project in support of minority farmers, the Hmong. NPI has made an honest effort to address USDA’s expressed concerns, but that effort may not be enough for USDA to support subject project.