February 17, 2017
Which U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies have programs that are tailored to meet the needs of diversified farming operations, organic growers, or beginning farmers? What resources are available for small- and mid-sized growers looking to reach expanding regional markets, and where can you find them? For most people, even many farmers and ranchers, the answers to these questions remain elusive. In 2016 the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) partnered with USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to produce a one-stop guide to USDA services for family farmers and ranchers. Growing Opportunity: A Guide to USDA Sustainable Farming Programs is a free resource that is now available online as well as in FSA’s 2,600 county offices.
FSA county offices are responsible for delivering and administering FSA farm programs at the local level, including commodity programs. FSA also oversees many programs that are useful for diversified, organic, and beginning growers, as well as those participating in local or regional food supply chains. These programs include the: Conservation Reserve Program (CRP); CRP Transition Incentives Program; Direct and Guaranteed Farm Ownership and Operating Loan programs (including down payment loans and microloans); Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program; and Farm Storage Facility Loan program. The guide also covers the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (NOCCSP), which FSA now administers. Cost share support is available in all FSA county offices, as well as through State Departments of Agriculture that can select to partner with FSA and also offer the program.
Because FSA offices are often the most convenient USDA access points for farmers, it is also important that they have knowledge about and informational materials on other popular programs that are administered by other agencies. NSAC’s Growing Opportunity guide is an important tool that FSA field offices will be able to use as an entry point in reaching out to beginning, socially disadvantaged, local food, and diversified farmers, and in helping them to determine what specific programs are available and best suited to help them achieve their goals.
This guide details dozens of USDA programs that are designed to help farmers and ranchers start, maintain, and grow successful operations, including:
Programs are broken down by administering agency (ex. FSA) and each page provides helpful information on who’s eligible, what the program helps farmers do, and where to go to get more information. Not sure what you’re looking for? Start with the handy “What Are You Hoping To Do?” chart on pages 4-5.
Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers, Commodity, Crop Insurance & Credit Programs, Conservation, Energy & Environment, Food Safety, Grants and Programs, Local & Regional Food Systems, Marketing and Labeling, Organic, Research, Education & Extension