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Over $17 Million in Funds Available for New Farmer Training Projects

October 5, 2016


Photo credit: USDA.

Photo credit: USDA.

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the availability of over $17 million in grant funds that will be invested into organizations to help launch new and expand existing programs to train beginning farmers.

These federal grants will be awarded through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) – the only USDA program specifically dedicated to training the next generation of farmers.

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) released the BFRDP Request for Applications (RFA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 late last week. The RFA is available on NIFA’s website, and contains detailed instructions on application requirements.

Organizations interested in applying for grant funding must complete and submit an electronic application through Grants.gov by 5:00pm EST on Thursday December 8th.

Program Priorities

BFRDP is a competitive grants program that provides funding to support the development of educational outreach curricula, workshops, educational teams, training, and technical assistance programs to assist beginning farmers and ranchers with entering, establishing, building and managing successful farm and ranch enterprises.

Grants issued by BFRDP may 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.

Refer to NSAC’s Grassroots Guide or the Request for Applications for a complete list of eligible project topics.

Partnerships and Target Audience

As in years past, priority is given to applications from partnerships and collaborations that are led by or include nongovernmental organizations, community-based organizations, and school-based agricultural educational organizations with expertise in new agricultural producer training and outreach.

Additionally, at least 5 percent of total BFRDP funds must be directed towards projects that address the needs of limited resource and socially disadvantaged beginning farmers and ranchers, as well as farm workers (including immigrants) desiring to become beginning farmers or ranchers. An additional 5 percent of total program funds must also be allocated to address the needs of beginning farmers and ranchers who are military veterans. Typically, those targeted percentages are exceeded by a wide margin in the grant evaluation and award process.

If an organization is applying under either of these two priority set-aside categories, they must:

  • Identify the target audience and state what percentage of the project budget will be allocated to serving either socially disadvantaged, limited resource, immigrant or veteran farmers;
  • Explain how the beginning farmers and ranchers in the identified target audience will be recruited and provided with appropriate training, education, outreach, or mentoring; and
  • Provide evidence of the organization’s ability to serve the needs of the identified audience.

New Streamlined Application Process

New for 2017NIFA has launched a new streamlined application process, which reduces the number of required forms needed to apply for grant funding. The new Just In Time Pilot option allows applicants to omit certain supplemental documentation (i.e., matching support documentation, subcontract information, pending support, and year by year budgets) from the application package. These forms are only required if a project is funded, and must be submitted within 30 days of award notification.

Grant Types and Amount

Similar to last year’s RFA, the RFA for FY 2017 will provide funding for two types of grants: Standard grants and Educational Enhancement.

Standard BFRDP projects support new and established local and regional training, education, outreach and technical assistance initiatives for beginning farmers and ranchers, and the maximum award 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

The same evaluation criteria will be 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.

According to the RFA,

[The] expectations for smaller projects, however, will be commensurate with their size (e.g., smaller audiences, more limited geographic reach, less complex collaborative arrangements) and provide an opportunity for smaller or less experienced organizations to propose projects that have smaller budgets and less complex administration.

Additionally, up to $600,000 is available for Educational Enhancement Team projects which aim to engage a team of experts to review beginning farmer and rancher curricula and programs to identify gaps, and develop, disseminate and facilitate the use of materials and tools to address these gaps. These grants include “train-the-trainers” type activities.

The evaluation and technical assistance grants offered in 2016 are no longer being offered in 2017.

Eligibility and Matching Funds

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

These collaborations may include community based organizations (CBOs); nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); State Cooperative Extension Services; Federal, State, or tribal agencies; colleges and universities; and private organizations. Inclusion of farmers and ranchers as part of the collaborative group is strongly encouraged.

Evidence of farmer input on the proposed project is very important 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 these funds are not required to be secured until 30 days after award notification.

New for 2017 – An organization or Project Director can submit multiple proposals, but is restricted to receiving only one award per calendar year.

Webinar for Applicants

USDA will host a free webinar on Wednesday October 26th from 1:00 to 3:00 pm ET to review the RFA and answer any questions grant applicants have about the application process. Please visit NIFA’s website to participate in the webinar (no advance registration necessary).

For additional details on how to apply for funding, see:

Fiscal Year 2017 BFRDP Request for application (posted September 30, 2016)

USDA’s press release

NIFA’s BFRDP program page

Grants.gov BFRDP Application Form (must be submitted by 5:00pm December 8, 2016)


Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers


2 responses to “Over $17 Million in Funds Available for New Farmer Training Projects”

  1. Zoe Nelsen says:

    I am the director for an innovative farm to school program in SW Colorado, with an interest in engaging our older students (high school) in a mentorship program with local farmers and ranchers. I would like to speak with a grant manager to assess if this program aligns well with this funding opportunity. Thank you.

  2. Reana Kovalcik says:

    Hi Zoe, we are actually not the issuers of any grants. However, you should be able to find links to the appropriate agencies at USDA in the blog.

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