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Financial Resources for Groups of Farmers and Ranchers

These programs fund not for profit organizations, educational institutions and groups of farmers or ranchers.  They do not fund individual farmers or ranchers directly. Included here are programs for not-for-profit corporations that serve farmers and ranchers, and programs that may be useful in developing value-added farm products and or expanding the marketing capacity of farms and ranches in your area.

This is not an exhaustive list, and we encourage you to notify us of any links that you think should be added by e-mailing us at AdvocacyandOutreach@osec.usda.gov.

Summaries for each of the below listed financial programs and their corresponding agencies is provided in the following section.

Office of Advocacy and Outreach (OAO)

Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)

National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Risk Management Agency (RMA)

Rural Development (RD)

Federal Wide Resources

SUMMARIES

About USDA Office of Advocacy and Outreach (OAO)
The Office of Advocacy and Outreach (OAO) was established to improve access to USDA programs and to improve the viability and profitability of small farms and ranches; beginning farmers and ranchers and socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers.

Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Competitive Grants Program

Type: Grants

Big idea: To connect socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to USDA programs by providing outreach and technical assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers and forest landowners (SDFRFL) within a defined geographic area in a linguistically appropriate manner. Approximately $19 million will be available through this RFP.

Who can apply: Community-based organizations, networks, or coalitions of community-based organizations, institutions of higher education, Indian tribes. Eligibility details.

Possibilities: OASDFR grants are available to:

  • Provide education in the full range of USDA Programs;
  • Assist in business planning and similar topics;
  • Develop farm decision making tools that increase viability and resource management;
  • Analyze the effects of changes in input costs on farm viability.

 

About USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)

The Agricultural Marketing Service includes five commodity programs--Dairy, Fruit and Vegetable, Livestock and Seed, Poultry, and Cotton and Tobacco. The programs provide standardization, grading and market news services for those commodities. They enforce such Federal Laws as the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act and the Federal Seed Act. AMS commodity programs also oversee marketing agreements and orders, administer research and promotion programs, and purchase commodities for Federal food programs.

Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP)

Type: Grants

Big idea: To help communities support local food systems through direct marketing. Direct marketing includes farmers markets, roadside stands, community-supported agriculture, agri-tourism and other direct producer-to-consumer marketing opportunities. Project awards increase access to local foods by low-income consumers, expand opportunities for farmers and growers to market their products directly to the consumer, and raise customer awareness of local farm products through promotion and outreach.

Who can apply: Agricultural cooperatives, economic development corporations, local governments, non-profit organizations, producer associations and producer networks, public benefit corporations, regional famers market authorities, and Tribal governments.

Possibilities: FMPP grants are available to:

  • Bring local farm products into federal nutrition programs with electronic benefits transfer (EBT) technology at direct-market outlets;
  • Raise customer awareness of local foods through promotion and outreach;
  • Educate farmers and growers in marketing, business planning, and similar topics;
  • Increase market awareness through advertising and branding efforts;
  • Purchase infrastructure, such as refrigerated trucks, or equipment for a commercial kitchen for value-added products.

Get more information: For more program information click here.

 

About USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
NIFA's unique mission is to advance knowledge for agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and communities by supporting research, education, and extension programs in the Land-Grant University System and other partner organizations. NIFA doesn't perform actual research, education, and extension but rather helps fund these activities at the state and local level and provides program leadership in these areas.

Agriculture and Food and Research Initiative (AFRI): Improved Sustainable Food Systems

Type: Grants

Big idea: To conduct research, education, and extension on local and regional food systems, from field to fork, that will increase sustainable food security in U.S. communities and expand viability within local economies. The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative is NIFA’s flagship competitive grant program and supports research in a number of program areas, including Improved Sustainable Food Systems.

Who can apply: Institutions of higher education

Possibilities: Grants can support sustainable food systems through projects that:

  • Identify, develop and evaluate community organizing strategies;
  • Evaluate local or regional food systems and their ability to increase food security;
  • Organize conferences and workshops that explore opportunities and constraints related to food system development and food insecurity;
  • Other activities per 2011 Request for Applications.

Get more information: For more information on this Challenge Area click here, and for information on the Agricultural Food and Research Initiative click here.

 

Agriculture and Food and Research Initiative (AFRI) - Agricultural Economics and Rural Communities

Type: Grants

Big idea: To provide support for research, education, and/or extension projects that address the long-term viability of small and medium-sized farms, entrepreneurship and small business development, markets and trade, and rural communities. The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative is NIFA’s flagship competitive grant program and supports research in a number of program areas, including Agricultural Economics and Rural Communities.

Who can apply: Institutions of higher education and other organizations, depending on project type

Possibilities: Projects support research, education and extension that directly benefit small- and mid-size farms and rural communities, including:

  • Developing farm decision making tools that increase viability and resource management;
  • Analyzing the effects of changes in input costs on farm viability;
  • Developing sustainable business strategies, such as growing local and regional markets.

Get more information: For more information on this program area click here, and for information on the Agricultural Food and Research Initiative click here.

 

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP)

Type: Grants

Big idea: The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program provides grants to organizations that train, educate, and provide outreach and technical assistance to new and beginning farmers on production, marketing, business management, legal strategies and other topics critical to running a successful operation.

Who can apply: State, Tribal, local, or regionally-based networks or partnerships of public and private entities

Possibilities: Grants can cover the following topics for beginning farmers and ranchers:

  • Production and land management strategies that enhance land stewardship;
  • Business management and decision support strategies that improve financial viability;
  • Marketing strategies for increased competitiveness;
  • Legal strategies that assist with farm or land acquisition and transfer.

Get more information: For more program information click here.

 

Community Food Projects (CFP)

Type: Grants

Big idea: Community Food Projects are designed to increase food security in communities by bringing the whole food system together to assess strengths, establish linkages, and create systems that improve the self-reliance of community members over their food needs.

Who can apply: Non-profit organizations

Possibilities: Examples of previously funded projects include:

  • A community kitchen making value-added products in the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee;
  • A revitalization of Native American dryland farming practices in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona;
  • A teen-run juice and muffin bar on the Lower East Side of New York City;
  • A pork producers cooperative in rural Missouri marketing sustainably-raised meat;
  • An urban agricultural center and farming enterprise among immigrants in Massachusetts.

Get more information: For more program information click here or visit WHYHunger.

 

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)

Type: Grants

Big idea: Small Business Innovation Research helps small businesses conduct high quality research related to important scientific problems and opportunities in agriculture. Research is intended to increase the commercialization of innovations and foster participation by women-owned and socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses in technological innovation.

Who can apply: Small businesses (fewer than 500 employees)

Possibilities: Small Business Innovation Research grants can be applied toward many areas of research including projects that:

  • Manage the movement of products throughout a supply chain;
  • Develop processes that save energy;
  • Capture and relay real-time market data.

Get more information: For more program information click here.

 

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE)

Type: Competitive grants

Big idea: The mission of the SARE program is to advance sustainable innovations in American agriculture. SARE is uniquely grassroots, administered by four regional offices guided by administrative councils of local experts. The following types of grants are offered through SARE:

  • Research and Education Grants: Ranging from $10,000 to $200,000 or more, these grants fund projects that usually involve scientists, producers, and others in an interdisciplinary approach;
  • Professional Development Grants: Ranging from $20,000 to $120,000, these grants spread the knowledge about sustainable concepts and practices by educating Cooperative Extension Service staff and other agricultural professionals;
  • Producer Grants: Producer grants typically run between $1,000 and $15,000 to conduct research, marketing and demonstration projects and share the results with other farmers and ranchers;
  • Other grant types in some regions.

Who can apply: Non-profit organizations, researchers and individual producers

Get more information: Sharing project results is a cornerstone of the SARE program, with field days, workshops and conferences in every region and an ever-growing library of books, bulletins, online resources and profiles of SARE grantees. For more program information click here.

 

About USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
NRCS works with landowners through conservation planning and assistance to benefit the soil, water, air, plants, and animals for productive lands and healthy ecosystems. Working at the local level - in field offices at USDA Service Centers in nearly every county in the Nation - NRCS employees' understanding of local resource concerns and challenges result in conservation solutions that last. Seventy percent of the land in the United States is privately owned, making stewardship by private landowners absolutely critical to the health of our Nation's environment.

 

Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP)

Type: Cost-share

Big idea: The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program’s purpose is to keep agricultural lands in production, and does so by assisting with the purchase of conservation easements from volunteer landowners. These easements ensure that the land will never be developed out of agricultural uses and provide income for landowners.

Who can apply: USDA partners with State, Tribal, or local governments or farm land protection programs to acquire conservation easements from landowners working through existing farm land preservation programs. Owners of certain agricultural lands, subject to income limitations, apply through these State, Tribal and local entities.

Possibilities: The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program is a great example of how the USDA is protecting natural resources and encouraging smart growth while supporting local farmers and local food systems. In addition to farm and ranch lands, forest land that contributes to the economic viability of - or serves as a buffer to protect - an agricultural operation may also qualify under this program.

Get more information: For more program information click here, and to apply for any USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service program contact your state or local office here.

 

About USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA)

The role of USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) is to help producers manage their business risks through effective, market-based risk management solutions. RMA's mission is to promote, support, and regulate sound risk management solutions to preserve and strengthen the economic stability of America's agricultural producers. As part of this mission, RMA operates and manages the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC).

 

Risk Management Education and Outreach

Type: Cooperative agreements

Big idea: USDA’s Risk Management Agency partners with educational institutions and community-based organizations to provide farmers and ranchers (especially minority, limited resource and traditionally underserved farmers and ranchers) with information on new ways to manage risk. This program funds risk management strategies related to production (including crop insurance), marketing, legal, human, and financial issues.

Who can apply: Non-profit organizations, tribal organizations, state agencies, and colleges or universities

Possibilities: Managing risk through sound practices is critical to any small business’ success, especially for farmers and ranchers. Possible projects could address risk management related to:

  • Production practices, including on-farm food safety;
  • Insurance, including health insurance;
  • Business planning and accounting;
  • Marketing and branding;
  • Legal and succession planning.

Get more information: For more program information click here.

 

About USDA Rural Development (RD)

RD financial programs support such essential public facilities and services as water and sewer systems, housing, health clinics, emergency service facilities and electric and telephone service. RD promotes economic development by supporting loans to businesses through banks, credit unions and community-managed lending pools. RD offers technical assistance and information to help agricultural producers and cooperatives get started and improve the effectiveness of their operations. RD provides technical assistance to help communities undertake community empowerment programs.

Program assistance is provided in many ways, including direct or guaranteed loans, grants, technical assistance, research and educational materials. Visit the following site for information and/or assistance.

Community Facilities (CF)

Type: Direct loans, guaranteed loans, and grants

Big idea: The Community Facilities Program supports rural communities by providing loans and grants for the construction, acquisition, or renovation of community facilities or for the purchase of equipment for community facilities.

Who can apply: Public bodies, non-profit organizations and Federally-recognized Indian tribes are all eligible to apply for funds to finance essential community facilities in rural areas (defined as areas with no more than 20,000 residents)

Possibilities: Projects that support local and regional food systems that may qualify for CF funding include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Farmers markets (i.e. structures);
  • School and community kitchens;
  • Food banks, including refrigerators;
  • Community gardens (i.e., purchase land; water source access) and noncommercial greenhouses;
  • Refrigerated trucks.

Get more information: For more program information click here, and to apply for any USDA Rural Development program contact your state or local office here.

 

Rural Business Opportunity Grants (RBOG)

Type: Grants

Big idea: The RBOG program promotes economic growth in rural communities by supporting training and technical assistance for business development and to assist with regional economic development planning. A specific emphasis within RBOG is support for collaborative economic planning and development through regional food systems.

Who can apply: Local governments, economic development organizations, non-profit organizations, Indian tribes, and cooperatives are eligible to apply. For the purposes of this program, a "rural community” is an area where the population does not exceed 50,000, or is next to a city or town with more than 50,000 people.

Possibilities: The types of projects that may be funded include:

  • Regional economic planning focused on food system development;
  • Market development and feasibility studies;
  • Business training, including leadership development and technical assistance for entrepreneurs;
  • Establishing business incubators, including commercial kitchens.

To apply for any USDA Rural Development program contact your state or local office here.

 

Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG)

Type: Grants

Big idea: The RBEG program funds projects that facilitate the development of small and emerging rural businesses, distance learning networks, and employment-related adult education programs.

Who can apply: Local and state governments and authorities, Indian tribes and non-profit organizations are eligible to apply. For the purposes of this program a "rural community” is an area where the population does not exceed 50,000, or is next to a city or town with more than 50,000 people.

Possibilities: Regarding business development, RBEGs may fund a broad array of activities including:

  • Acquisition or development of land;
  • Construction, conversion, or renovation of buildings;
  • Purchase of machinery and equipment, including refrigerators and processing equipment;
  • Capitalization of revolving loan funds;
  • Provision of training and technical assistance (unless related to agricultural production);
  • Project planning.

To apply for any USDA Rural Development program contact your state or local office here.

 

Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG)

Type: Grants

Big idea: Value-added processing and marketing helps farmers and ranchers receive a higher portion of the retail dollar. Value-Added Producer Grants support planning activities, such as developing a business plan, as well as working capital. Specific funds are available for projects that focus on local and regional supply networks or support beginning farmers and ranchers, socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and small or medium-sized farms or ranches.

Who can apply: Independent producers, farmer or rancher cooperatives, agricultural producer groups, and producer-owned business ventures, including non-profit organizations

Possibilities: Grants may fund projects that:

  • Create a business plan to market value-added products;
  • Evaluate the feasibility of direct marketing freshly bottled milk;
  • Evaluate the financial benefits of processing and marketing meat versus selling live animals;
  • Expand marketing capacity for locally- and regionally-grown products;
  • Expand processing capacity.

Get more information: To apply for any USDA Rural Development program contact your state or local office here.

 

Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP)

Type: Loans and grants

Big idea: RMAP provides direct loans and technical assistance grants to support small business development in rural areas. Loans and grants are provided to Microenterprise Development Organizations, who in turn provide loans and technical assistance to microentrepreneurs - including farmers - in developing their business. Loans may be used for working capital, debt refinancing, business acquisitions, and to purchase equipment or real estate, and grants provide technical assistance and training.

Who can apply: Non-profit organizations, Federally-recognized Indian tribes, and public institutions of higher education that serve rural areas are all considered eligible Microenterprise Development Organizations

Possibilities: Funding can cover financing a facility or equipment, business planning and marketing, including coordinating and training necessary for a food hub or commercial kitchen incubator.

Get more information: To apply for any USDA Rural Development program contact your state or local office here.

 

Rural Cooperative Development Grants (RCDG)

Type: Grants

Big idea: Rural Cooperative Development Grants support rural economic development through the creation or improvement of cooperative development centers. Cooperative development centers in turn provide assistance for starting up, improving, or expanding rural businesses, especially cooperatives.

Who can apply: Non-profit organizations; for the purposes of this program, cooperative development centers must primarily serve “rural areas,” where the population does not exceed 50,000, or is next to a city or town with more than 50,000 people.

Possibilities: Rural Cooperative Development Grants support a broad range of activities, including:

  • New and beginning farmer training;
  • Marketing and feasibility studies;
  • Business development assistance;
  • Outreach.

Get more information: To apply for any USDA Rural Development program contact your state or local office here.

 

Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program (B&I)

Type: Guaranteed Loans

Big idea: To help new and existing businesses based in rural areas gain access to affordable capital, USDA provides guarantees on loans made by private lenders. By issuing a guarantee, USDA essentially co-signs the loan with the loan recipient, lowering the lender's risk and allowing for more favorable interest rates and terms.
The 2008 Farm Bill placed a special emphasis on supporting businesses that establish and facilitate the processing, distribution, aggregation, storing and marketing of locally or regionally produced food products.

Who can apply: Cooperatives, non-profit organizations, corporations, partnerships, or other legal entities; Indian tribes; public bodies; or individuals

Possibilities: Loans can be used for a wide variety of business activities, including:

  • Business conversion, expansion, repair, modernization, or development;
  • Purchase and development of land, easements, rights-of-way, buildings or facilities;
  • Purchase of equipment, leasehold improvements, machinery, supplies, or inventory;
  • Working capital and debt refinancing.

Get more information: To apply for any USDA Rural Development program contact your state or local office here.

 

FEDERAL WIDE GRANT RESOURCES

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