June 23, 2017
Historically, farmers of color and military veterans have not had the same access to or rates of participation in the programs administered by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA); often this disparity has been due to insufficient or inadequate outreach to these communities. In order to help veterans and farmers of color to enter and succeed in agriculture, the USDA developed the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as the “Section 2501 Program”), which helps ensure that these producers have opportunities to successfully acquire, own, operate, and retain farms and equitably participate in all USDA programs.
This week, USDA announced the availability of over $8 million in Section 2501 grants to help organizations conduct targeted outreach and provide technical assistance to minority, veteran, and other underserved farmers. The grants are available to support a range of outreach and assistance activities, including farm management, financial management, marketing, and application and bidding procedures.
The 2017 Funding Cycle
USDA’s Office of Advocacy and Outreach released the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for the 2501 Program for fiscal year (FY) 2017 earlier this week and will be accepting applications for 45 days. All applications must be submitted via grants.gov by 11:59 pm on Monday, August 7.
This is a slightly longer application window than previous years, but is still shy of the 60-day minimum application period for which the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has advocated. A longer application period would give non-profit and community-based organizations more adequate timing to prepare their grant applications, and therefore increase the quantity and quality of program applications. Many applicants to the 2501 program are non-profit and community-based organizations that work directly with farmers of color across the country; they also are often dealing with limited staff and budgets, making it difficult to meet quick turnaround times for grant applications.
Funding Announcement Details
This year’s FOA is largely unchanged from previous years. The maximum amount that organizations can apply for is $200,000 for a single year grant. Project applications can cover multiyear initiatives; however, applicants will only be able to receive funding for one year and must reapply for any additional funding. There is no match required for applications.
Grant funding will be awarded to three categories of applicants:
Organizations must have demonstrated expertise in working with underserved, socially disadvantaged and/or veteran farmer communities.
USDA is soliciting project proposals that address the following program priorities:
These priorities are by and large very similar to previous years; however, the omission of projects that serve farmworkers and StrikeForce and Promise Zones is notable. There is nothing in the FOA that explicitly prohibits these proposals, however.
The Future of the 2501 Program
The Section 2501 program was reauthorized in the 2014 Farm Bill at $10 million per year in mandatory funding for fiscal years 2014 – 2018. This is half of the funding that had been available each year prior to 2014, despite the fact that the 2014 bill also expanded the program’s mandate to include serving military veterans. In order to get the program back to the level it needs to adequately serve socially disadvantaged farmers and veterans, NSAC, our partners, and members of Congress have advocated for an additional $10 million in discretionary funding for 2501 through the FY 2018 annual appropriations process.
Unfortunately, the President’s FY 2018 budget proposal (released earlier this spring) set the wrong tone for the upcoming fiscal year by not including additional discretionary funding for Section 2501. The House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees have yet to release their FY 2018 funding bills, and NSAC will continue to advocate for the much-needed funding increase for this program despite the lack of additional funding in the President’s request.
Looking beyond FY 2018 funding, it is also important to note that Section 2501 is one of the many critical programs that could be left stranded without funds in the next farm bill if it is not reauthorized on time – the program is only funded for the five years of the 2014 Farm Bill (FY 2014- 2018) and will cease to exist if Congress does not provide new farm bill funding by October 1, 2018.
For More Information
Please refer to the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for the program, published in the Federal Register for additional details on how to apply.
Additional details on the program’s purpose, how it functions, and who is eligible can be found in NSAC’s Grassroots Guide. You can also consult the program’s Frequently Asked Question page for more information.