31: Grant Opportunities for Farmers
Challenges of Grants
Grants are NOT available to start a farm and are not a reliable strategy for growing your business. Grants may enable you to expand a particular aspect of your farm business to make your operation more viable, or provide funding to try a new practice on your farm.
Grants are highly competitive so apply only if the project you are proposing clearly meets the grantor’s objectives. Always find out what kinds of projects were funded in the past to determine if your project is in line with what has been funded.
It takes significant time and effort to write a winning grant proposal. Instructions must be followed precisely. Grants often require a cash or in-kind match that must be documented in the budget you propose. They also often operate on a “reimbursement” basis, meaning that if you are awarded a grant, you have to front the cash to implement the project and then get reimbursed later by the grant funds, which can put a real strain on farm finances.
Grant proposals will not be considered if they arrive late after the deadline for application. Deadlines for application submission and instructions are generally announced once a year. Most grants are not available on an ongoing basis.
Once you submit a grant, it may take 3 to 6 months to find out if your application was selected for funding. If funded, it also takes time to finalize the contract. Generally, you will not be reimbursed for money spent prior to receiving the signed contract. Grant contracts require that you write a report of the results and provide an accounting of how the money was spent; therefore, you must keep accurate records. Grants are also considered income for tax purposes, so keep in mind that you will pay income tax on the funds you are awarded.
Available Grant Programs
If you’ve carefully read all of the above and still want to apply for a grant, there are several programs available to farmers from federal or state sources, each with specific objectives. Grants fall into three general types:
- Grants for business planning, adding value and increasing farm viability
- Grants for on-farm research and demonstration projects that are mostly production-oriented though some include marketing demonstration projects
- Grants for farm energy conservation, alternative energy, environmental protection/conservation and waste management
New York State Sources
NYS Specialty Crops Block Grants Program:
- Purpose: Increase the competitiveness of specialty crops, encourage efficiency, partnerships, innovation, and new markets. The RFP includes many areas of focus including: packaging/labeling, environmental quality, distribution, education and outreach, food safety, food security, marketing and promotion, product development, plant health and international trade.
- Eligibility: Funding available to non-profits, for profits, individuals, educational institutions, and government; however, individuals and businesses must partner with others. Eligible crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops (including floriculture), herbs and spices.
- Information: For questions, contact: Mark McMullen, 518-457-4383 http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/AP/slide/SpecialtyCrop.html
New Farmer Grant Fund:
- Purpose: Assistance for beginning farmers
- Eligibility: Must be in the first 10 years of business with a significant ownership in a farm operation that generates at least $10,000 in sales. Eligible projects include, but are not limited to, the purchase of machinery and equipment, supplies, or construction or improvement of physical structures used exclusively for agricultural purposes.
- Funding: Will fund up to $50,000 and the applicant must pay for half of the proposed project cost (50% cost share match).
- Information: The opportunity to apply is announced annually in October, applications are due in January and awards are announced in June. Contracts follow and therefore it may be fall before a project can start. http://esd.ny.gov/BusinessPrograms/Data/NewFarmersGrantFund/2015_Guidelines_NewFarmers.pdf
NYS Dept. of Ag & Markets – Agriculture & Farmland Protection Projects:
- Purpose: State assistance for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements (development rights) to permanently restrict development of valuable agricultural lands
- Eligibility: Counties or municipalities with approved Ag & Farmland Protection Plans – Farmers should contact county or town government if interested in the sale of development rights. This application is submitted by the municipality and not the farmer.
- Funding: No cap; State provides 75% of the cost to acquire the easement; farmers or local government provides 25%
- Information: http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/AP/agservices/farmprotect.html
NYS DEC Water Quality Improvement Projects:
- Purpose: Implement practices to improve water quality
- Information: Contact your county SWCD for information on local funds; funding is not competitive but funds are limited and must meet criteria for water quality protection. Here is a link to county offices: http://www.nys-soilandwater.org/contacts/county_offices.html
***Check with county soil and water district regarding programs and federal funds for project implementation!
NYSERDA-New York State Energy Research and Development Authority:
- Purpose: NYSERDA offers technical assistance to identify energy efficiency measures for eligible farms and on-farm producers.
- Information: Free Agriculture Energy Audits are available as well as technical assistance identifying other third-party funding opportunities. There are three levels of audits available and separated by level of detail. https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Programs/Agriculture-Energy-Audit
NYS Climate Resilient Farming Program:
- Purpose: Implement practices to improve climate resiliency
- Information: There are 3 tracks and applicants must choose one:
- Manure cover and flare systems
- Water Management
- Soil Management.
- Grants cover 75% of project costs and focus on practices to mitigate agriculture’s contribution to climate change, as well as helping farms adapt to the changing climate. Applications are usually due sometime in the first quarter of the year. Contact your county Soil and Water Conservation District to get more information: http://www.nys-soilandwater.org/contacts/county_offices.html
***Application must be submitted by your county soil and water district!
USDA-SARE/Sustainable Agriculture – Farmer/Grower Grant:
- Purpose: Support on-farm research demonstrations, marketing innovations, value-adding activities, and other projects.
- Funding Level: Capped at $15,000; capital improvements limited to $500 of total project cost; no match required. Annual deadline in late November.
USDA Rural Development – Value-Added Producer Grant:
- Purpose: Encourage producers of commodities to add value to products by further processing them – for feasibility studies, business and marketing plans, studies to establish a new venture, and working capital for established ventures with a business plan.
- Funding Level: Planning grants up to $100,000 and working capital grants up to $300,000
- Scott Collins: 315-477-6400
USDA Rural Development – Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)
- Help farmers and rural businesses make energy improvements and install renewable systems
- Three programs available: Energy Audit and Renewable Energy Development Assistance; Energy Systems/Energy Efficiency Improvement; and Feasibility Studies Grant Program.
- Eligibility: must be located in an area with less than 50,000 inhabitants.Funding for systems that generate energy from wind, solar, biomass, geothermal sources; and for energy efficiency improvements-upgrade equipment or processes.
- Funding Level: Varies with program (see info on website)
- Gary Pereira: 315-736-3316
USDA NRCS – Farm Bill Initiatives for Conservation Practices:
- Purpose: The Farm Bill authorizes several new initiatives geared at land conservation and water quality protection. There are 3 main funding areas: Ag Management Assistance for water management or irrigation systems; Conservation Stewardship Program focused on protecting soil and water quality and energy; and EQIP – Environmental Quality Incentives program for practices that address natural resource concerns on land. Under EQIP, there is a popular High Tunnel funding program: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/ny/programs/financial/eqip/?cid=nrcs144p2_027074
- Information: Find out what is available by contacting your county or regional USDA Service Center:
USDA FSA Rural Youth Loan
FSA makes loans to individual youths to establish and operate income-producing projects of modest size in connection with their participation in 4-H clubs, FFA, and similar organizations. Each project must be part of an organized and supervised program of work designed to provide practical business and educational experience. The project must be planned and operated with the help of the organization adviser and produce sufficient income to repay the loan. A youth loan is available to young persons between the ages 10 and 20 years. The maximum loan amount is $5,000. Loan funds may be used to buy livestock, seed, equipment and supplies; buy, rent or repair tools and equipment, or pay operating expenses.
Fund a Farmer (a project of Food Animal Concerns Trust)
- Purpose: Grants for projects that help family farmers transition to pasture-based systems, improve the marketing of their humane products, or more generally to enrich the conditions in which the farm animals are raised.
- Funding Levels: Up to $2,500
- Information: Full eligibility requirements, application, and program details available at www.fundafarmer.org/apply-for-grant/grant-guidelines