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$14 Million Available to Help Train the Next Generation of Farmers

April 8, 2019


D'Quinton Robertson works on Lehman Farms examining the fields, among other things, while currently attending college studying agricultural business. There he has the opportunity to learn first hand from Aaron Lehman the ins-and-outs of farming by a conventional and certified organic corn, oats and alfalfa operation. Living with his uncle, Robertson raises horses, chickens and a sheep. He participates in rodeo competitions and is involved with racing horses. RobertsonÕs family owns an 80-acre ranch in Linden, Alabama, where he found his love for agriculture and farming. Photo credit: USDA, Preston Keres
D’Quinton Robertson works on Lehman Farms, where he has the opportunity to learn first hand from Aaron Lehman the ins-and-outs of farming. Photo credit: USDA, Preston Keres

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced the availability of $14 million in grant funds to help launch new and expand existing programs to train beginning farmers and ranchers. These federal grants will be awarded through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), which was newly reauthorized in the 2018 Farm Bill. To date, BFRDP remains the only USDA program specifically dedicated to training the next generation of America’s farmers and ranchers.

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which administers BFRDP, released Requests for Applications (RFA) for fiscal year (FY) 2019 and 2020 last week. Organizations interested in applying for grant funding must submit an electronic application through Grants.gov by 5:00pm EST on Thursday May 16, 2019 (for FY 2019 awards) or February 13, 2020 (for FY 2020 awards).

Note: There may be some revisions to next year’s RFA, so applicants considering applying for FY 2020 should re-check NIFA’s website later this year before preparing application materials.

BFRDP Overview

BFRDP is a competitive grants program that provides funding for educational, training, and technical assistance programs to assist beginning farmers and ranchers across the United States and U.S. territories. For over a decade, this program has helped aspiring producers to launch careers in agriculture, and beginning producers to maintain and grow successful farm and ranch enterprises.

BFRDP was recently reauthorized in the 2018 Farm Bill, as part of a new umbrella program – the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) program. FOTO, which houses both BFRDP and the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program (“Section 2501”), coordinates USDA training and outreach to beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers. 

Grants issued by BFRDP support projects that address a variety of topics, including: livestock and crop farming practices; land transfer strategies; business, financial and risk management training; curriculum development; mentoring and apprenticeships; agricultural rehabilitation and vocational training for veterans; and farm safety.

Anticipated funding for FY 2019 and FY 2020 projects is $14 million per year – a decrease in funding from previous years. In creating FOTO, the new Farm Bill established permanent funding for BFRDP, but also cut annual funding in the first years of FOTO’s implementation. Restoring historic funding levels for BFRDP and Section 2501 is a top priority for NSAC as part of our FY 2020 Appropriations Campaign.

Program Changes, 2018 Farm Bill

The new farm bill made several changes to BFRDP, which are reflected in this year’s RFA. One significant change, which was strongly advocated for by NSAC, is the increased emphasis on projects that support farm succession planning (also included as a new grant priority) and farmland transfer to new farmers. Specifically, projects may now be targeted towards retiring farmers and non-farming landowners so long as the ultimate aim of the project is to increase opportunities for beginning farmers.

Additional changes include:

  • Grantees may now be eligible to request a waiver to the matching funds requirement if their project targets an “underserved area or population.”
  • For grant projects under $50,000, USDA is offering a simplified grant application process (see RFA for additional details).
  • Municipal agencies (as well as federal, state, and tribal governments) have been added as eligible applicants. Eligibility criteria otherwise remain roughly the same.
  • Farmers must now be involved in BFRDP project design and implementation (included as a new evaluation criteria for grant proposals).
  • New priority on projects that include components on food safety and recordkeeping.
  • Scope of Educational Team (ET) projects is broadened to support not just new farmer curriculum development, but also train-the-trainer initiatives for service providers that work directly with beginning farmers.

Grant Types and Amount

Funding for three types of grants can be applied for through the FY 2019 RFA: Standard, Educational Team, and Clearinghouse. Note: Clearinghouse grants will only be offered in FY 2019.

Standard BFRDP projects support new and established local and regional training, education, outreach and technical assistance initiatives for beginning farmers and ranchers. The maximum award for Standard Projects is limited to:

  • $200,000 per year for up to three years for Large Standard Grants.
  • $100,000 per year for up to three years for Small Standard Grants.
  • $50,000 for up to one year for Simplified Standard Grants.

The same evaluation criteria are used for both small and large projects, including the priority for partnerships with non-profit and community-based organizations, but they will be evaluated separately. Refer to the RFA for evaluation criteria for simplified grants.

Up to $600,000 is available for Educational Team projects. These projects aim to identify gaps in beginning farmer and rancher training by evaluating all existing programs, and to develop and conduct train-the-trainer projects to address these gaps.

This year, NIFA will also recompete the BFRDP Clearinghouse, which is currently administered by the University of Minnesota. The purpose of the Online Clearinghouse is to serve as an online platform and library for curricula, training materials, technical assistance materials and any other appropriate information for beginning farmers and ranchers. One Clearinghouse grant will be awarded in FY 2019 for a maximum of $600,000 over 3 years.

Note: For all grant types, all work must be completed within three years.

Eligibility and Matching Funds

Applications for BFRDP funding may only be submitted by a collaborative state, tribal, local, or regionally-based network or partnership of qualified public and/or private entities.

Eligible collaborations may include: community based organizations (CBOs); nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); State Cooperative Extension Services; Federal, State, municipal, or tribal agencies; colleges and universities; and private organizations. Inclusion of farmers and ranchers as part of the collaborative group is strongly encouraged. Priority will be given to partnerships with CBOs and NGOs, as well as those that address the needs of military veterans and farmers of color.

Evidence of farmer input on the proposed project is now required and will be used as an evaluation criterion in selecting grant applications to be funded.

Applicants must provide matching funds in the amount of 25 percent of the total project budget, though applicants can for the first time request a waiver in order to effectively reach an underserved area or population.

More Information

For a full list of eligible project topics, please see NSAC’s Grassroots Guide or the BFRDP Request for Applications. For more information on BFRDP, including tips and best practices for applicants and a detailed analysis of the program’s performance to date, see NSAC’s newest beginning farmer resource – Cultivating the Next Generation. This report is the first comprehensive analysis of BFRDP’s performance and impact over time on beginning and veteran farmers and ranchers.

Additionally, NIFA will hold a stakeholder webinar (details on page 3 of the BFRDP RFA) on April 16 to answer questions from applicants about the RFA and application process. For additional program details, seeNSAC’s Grassroots Guide, or refer to any of the following links:


Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers, Grants and Programs


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