The USDA is making available approximately $30 million in funding for agricultural producers, including beginning farmers, to implement value-added enterprises. The information about applying for the grant is available in the Notice of Funding Opportunity but a few highlights:
- The maximum award per grant is $250,000 for working capital and $75,000 for planning activities;
- The grant requires a one-to-one match. In other words, for every dollar of grant funds, the applicant must provide a dollar in matching funds;
- Funding priorities are available for beginning, socially disadvantaged, operators of small and medium-sized farms and ranches structured as family farms or ranches, farmer or rancher cooperatives, and projects proposing to develop a Mid-Tier Value Chain (definitions can be found here);
- Applications are due July 7, 2015 with an anticipated start date of September 30, 2015; and
- Projects can be up to 36 months, depending upon complexity.
We’ve previously discussed value added grants; however, the Notice of Funding Opportunity is for fiscal year 2015.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us — we’re always here to help!
This post does not promise to be a comprehensive review of all the new programs and funding in the new Farm Bill. Rather, it is a short review for you to begin to think about ways in which you can potentially use some new programs or additional funding in the Farm Bill for your own operation. (For a thorough review of the beginning farmer initiatives, click here.)
So what’s in there?
- Additional funding for beginning farmer and rancher training and outreach programs. This website and program is funded via the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. That program has received additional funding with a new emphasis on military veteran farmers.
- Enhanced premium subsidies for crop insurance. The enhanced subsidy of 10 percent points is only for a beginning farmer in the first five years of his/her farming career.
- The Farm Service Agency’s microloan program becomes permanent. For beginning and military veteran farmers, microloans will no longer have a term limit.
- Additionally, the FSA will continue to prioritize beginning farmers in its direct and guaranteed farm ownership and operating loan programs.
- NRCS’ EQIP program will continue to cost-share with beginning, limited resource, and socially disadvantaged farmers. Additionally, while a farmer can current receive up to 30% of a project’s cost in advance, the new farm bill increases the possible cost-share to 50%.
- Land access is obviously an important topic and there are some new initiatives for beginning farmers. The FSA Down Payment Loan Program increases the value of land eligible from $500,000 to $667,000. A new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, per the Land Trust Alliance:
The Agricultural Lands Easement program (ALE) combines the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) and Grassland Reserve Program (GRP). ALE is part of the larger Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which also contains the former Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).
- There are some additional provisions, such as conservation funding and a return of the Transition Incentive Program (with an increase in funding) administered by the FSA. There are also some clarifications within the Value Added Producer program defining beginning farmer status in multi-applicant applications.
Overall, there are some interesting opportunities for beginning farmers and ranchers in the new Farm Bill. As the new programs, additional funding, and more details become available, we’ll know more about how to maximize use of the programs for specific types of operations. But as of now, there appears to be a significant amount of promise in the new Farm Bill for beginning farmers and ranchers, socially disadvantaged farmers, and veteran farmers.
As the Center for Rural Affairs reminded me, USDA Value Added Producer Grants are now available. What do you need to know about the grants?
First, the goals of the grant program is to generate new products, create and expand marketing opportunities, and increase producer income. Beginning farmers, socially-disadvantaged farmers, and a small to mid-sized farm structured as a family farm (along with a few other categories) may receive priority in funding.
Approximately $10.5 million is currently available. More funds may come available should additional funds be allocated to the program. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis. The maximum grant amount is $75,000 for planning grants and $200,000 for working capital grants.
Today, December 16th at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time, the USDA will hold a webinar about the program. The webinar will be recorded so it is likely that it will be available for viewing at a later date.
More information on the process for applying for the planning or working capital grants is here. Included in that information are templates for applying for a planning or working capital grant. If you’d like to read the announcement of funding in the Federal Register, you may do so here. A detailed fact sheet from the Center for Rural Affairs, including resources for help in completing the grant application, is here. The deadline for applications is February 24, 2014.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. We’re always happy to help.