July 24, 2014
On Thursday, July 24, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the much anticipated, long delayed release of funding to support outreach and technical assistance for underserved farmers – including minority, tribal, and veteran producers.
USDA’s Office of Advocacy and Outreach (OAO) made the announcement this week that $9.1 million will be available in 2014 to make grants through the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program – also known as the Section 2501 Program.
It’s been nearly six months since the new Farm Bill was signed into law this past February, and farm and community-based organizations who work with minority and veteran farmers across the country have been eagerly awaiting the release of this much needed funding to help farm groups reach and provide technical assistance and other resources to historically underserved farmers who typically have low participation in federal farm programs.
Program History and Farm Bill Changes
The 2501 Program was established in 1990 and has historically targeted funding to support farmers who are considered “socially disadvantaged” by USDA definitions. These include African-American, American-Indian, Asian-American, and Latino farmers and ranchers. For more information on how the 2501 Program supports these communities, check out our previous blog post on the program.
Due to the delay in passing a new farm bill, this program and many others that support sustainable food and farming systems, were stranded without funding in 2013. This means that there is likely to be significant pent-up demand for program funding in this upcoming funding cycle for Fiscal Year 2014. Unfortunately, while the new farm bill expands the 2501 Program to also include veteran farmers and ranchers, Congress also cut funding in half from previous levels.
For example, USDA granted out approximately $19 million in 2012 to support 70 projects designed to increase outreach and provide technical assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers across the county. In 2014, USDA will only be awarding just over $9 million to support nearly half as many projects in fewer locations across the country that serve both socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers. Clearly, with the increased demand for outreach and assistance to these groups, demand for program resources is likely to far exceed available funding and this year’s funding cycle is expected to be extremely competitive.
Details on the 2014 Application Process
The Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) that was published this week includes detailed instructions for organizations and institutions seeking to apply for grant funding. Click here to download the 2014 FOA.
On the whole, the FOA is very similar to previous years. Entities that are eligible to apply for funding include community-based organizations, Indian Tribes, 1890 and 1994 Land-Grant Institutions, Hispanic-serving institutions, American Tribal Community Colleges, Alaska Native Cooperative Colleges, and other higher institutions of learning.USDA will be accepting grant applications for 30 days, and all applicants must submit their proposals through www.grants.gov by 5:00 pm EST on Monday August 25th Wednesday August 27th. Note: The deadline for applications was changed to Wednesday, August 27th as the grants.gov website will be inaccessible from August 23rd to August 25th .
Two changes from previous years are the total grant amount, which is capped at $400,000, and the grant term, which is capped at one year. Both the grant amount and grant term were twice these amounts in previous FOAs.
Another significant change to this year’s application process is how the grant proposals will be categorized and competed and subsequently reviewed by a peer review panel. This year, there will be three separate categories of proposals that will be competed, including applications from:
All grant applications are expected to address two or more of the following priority areas in the projects they are proposing:
Like previous years, there is no match required for grant proposals. Applications are due by 5:00 pm EST on Monday August 25th Wednesday August 27th and applicants are likely to be notified regarding the status of their application sometime later this fall.
OAO will post questions and answers relating to the 2501 FOA on the program website and will conduct webinars on an as-needed basis. Applicants are encouraged to direct any questions about the application process to OASDVFR2014@osec.usda.gov.
For more information on how to apply, click here to download the 2014 FOA.