NSAC's Blog


RFA Roundup Pt. II: Deadline Reminders and New Applications

December 7, 2016


Cover crop experiment at Rogers Farm Forage and Crop Research Facility in Orono, Maine. Photo credit: Reana Kovalcik.

Cover crop experiment at Rogers Farm Forage and Crop Research Facility in Orono, Maine. Photo credit: Reana Kovalcik.

With two months of the fiscal year (FY) already underway, agricultural grant program deadlines are cropping up quickly, and many are expiring just as fast. In an effort to help farmers and advocates stay up to date with the deadlines and requirements of these Requests For Application (RFA) notices, we have updated our RFA Roundup blog with details on new and already expired opportunities.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants are available for a broad range of projects and efforts, including: beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer engagement; risk management; renewable energy implementation; and farm to school projects. We at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) hope that this list will be a useful reference guide for all those looking for grant assistance.

For more detailed information on these and other USDA grant programs, see NSAC’s free resource, the Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm and Food Programs.

Open RFAs are listed below in order of deadline:

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE)Deadlines vary by region 

SARE is administered at the regional level, with each region independently carrying out project initiatives and grants. At this time, only the North Central Region (NCR-SARE) and Western-SARE (W-SARE) have open grant application periods. To learn more, refer to NSAC’s recent SARE Roundup blog.

  • NCR-SARE
  • W-SARE
    • Professional and Producer Grants: This grant allows an agricultural “professional” to team up with five producers and develop a proposal for research and subsequent education on a sustainable agriculture topic of their choice. Deadline for proposals are today, December 7, 2016, at 1 p.m. MST
    • Farmer/Rancher Research and Education Grants: Using this grant, producers can create a proposal to perform a sustainable agriculture-focused research project on their farm/ranch with the help of a technical advisor. This research will be used as an education tool. Applications are due today, December 7, 2016, at 1 p.m. MST.

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP)December 8, 2016

BFRDP, administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), is the only federal program specifically dedicated to helping the next generation of farmers. This program seeks projects that will ultimately support the development of educational outreach curricula, workshops, training, and technical assistance programs to assist beginning farmers and ranchers with entering, establishing, building and managing successful farm and ranch enterprises. Grants will be divided into two categories based on loan size – Large Standard Grants ($200,000 per year for up to three years) and Small Standard Grants ($100,000 per year up to three years). Training can focus on land transfer strategies, business, financial and risk management training, curriculum development, or other areas. Deadline for applications is December 8, 2016 at 5 p.m.

Farm to School Grant ProgramDecember 8, 2016

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) annually provides $5 million to schools, nonprofits, state and local agencies, agricultural producers, and tribal organizations through its Farm to School (F2S) Grant Program. F2S projects increase schools’ abilities to access local food for their meal plans, as well as introduce and expand students’ knowledge of food and agriculture.

See our blog for an analysis of the four grant categories for the upcoming pool of applications: (1) Planning grants for those in the just getting started; (2) Implementation grants for expanding and developing already existing F2S programs; (3) Support Service grants for community partners to provide support to schools and their F2S efforts; and (4) Training grants for partners to train schools regarding food safety, local procurement, and food and agriculture curriculum. The fiscal year 2017 RFA specifies the deadline as 11:59 p.m. on December 8, 2016.

Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program (FINI): December 12, 2016

Borne out of the 2014 Farm Bill, FINI is an important competitive grant program that serves to enhance food security. Grants under this program are available to nonprofit organizations and federal agencies (i.e., community-supported agricultural programs and emergency feeding organizations) whose projects focus on enabling Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants to purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables through cash incentives. Projects will be categorized into three buckets based on size and timeframe – Pilot Projects, Multi-year Community-Based Projects, and Multi-year Large Scale Projects. 2017 priorities include providing locally and regionally produced produce to SNAP participants, creating direct connections between low-income communities and agricultural producers and targeting underserved communities (i.e., StrikeForce communities). Applications are due at 5 p.m. on December 12, 2016.

Organic Research Extension Initiative (OREI): January 19, 2017

OREI grants are a key funding opportunity for projects that advance research, extension, and education opportunities within the organic industry. A variety of organic stakeholders and their projects are eligible for OREI funding, including (but not limited to) universities, nonprofits, and private companies. Projects must include a local or regional panel component, in addition to involving farmers when performing on-farm testing to promote regional-based developments. During the application process, projects will be categorized into four areas: (1) Integrated Project Proposals; (2) Conference Proposals; (3) Research, Education and Extension Planning Proposals; and (4) Curriculum Development Proposals. The deadline for these proposals is 5 p.m. on January 19, 2017.

Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG): January 9, 2017

USDA’s agency dedicated to conservation efforts, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), recently announced the availability of $25 million for its CIG program in 2017. This program, which is a branch of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), provides an opportunity for NGOs, non-Federal government organizations, American Indian Tribes and individuals to engage in research and projects focused on conservation. NRCS’ goal is to ultimately make the technologies and practices that come out of CIG available to farmers engaging in on-farm sustainability. Each year, the program focuses on specific areas in conservation technology. This year’s foci include: conservation finance, precision conservation, data analyses to assess natural resource abundance, and water management technologies. Of the $25 million allotted to this year’s projects, $2 million will be directed towards projects specifically targeting and working to improve conditions for beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers and veteran farmers. The application deadline is January 17, 2017.

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP): February 3, 2017

CSP is a unique program that supports farmers already invested in environmentally sound farm practices, as well as farmers looking to improve their farms’ sustainability. USDA’s NRCS carries out CSP, the largest working lands conservation program in the nation. CSP works differently from the other grants mentioned here; specifically, farmers receive both technical and financial assistance in a contrast that extends for five years. State NRCS technical advisors will help farmers develop plans for their conservation practices. These can include: addressing major regional resource concerns such as water quality, improving soil quality, increasing on-farm biodiversity and conserving water and energy. Additionally, the program offers conservation enhancements to help expand or add on to a farmer’s already existing conservation efforts. To help you navigate these enhancements, check out some of NSAC’s own resources.

Due to the obvious appeal of the resources and guidance awarded through CSP, it is a highly competitive grant program. To apply, farmers must fill out a simple form. If accepted and deemed eligible for CSP, contracts will be awarded first to those whose conservation plans (which are developed together by the farmer and NRCS field staff) best address key state-based priority resource concerns. Applications will be accepted year-round. However to be considered for a FY 2017 contract, applications should be turned in no later than February 3, 2017.

Integrated Research, Education, and Extension Competitive Grant Programs – Organic Transitions (ORG): March 9, 2017

Administered by USDA’s NIFA, the ORG competitive grant program supports colleges and universities seeking to advance the organic sector. Funding for organic agriculture is extremely limited, despite the rising demand for organic products from consumers and increase in transitioning to organic agriculture from farmers. The ORG grant program seeks to fill this funding gap by supporting projects focused on research, education and extension for organic transition, with the ultimate goal of making organics more competitive in the food industry. For the FY 2017 round of applications, NIFA will make about $3.8 million available. In the RFA for ORG, NIFA describes key priority areas for FY 2017 projects, including: (1) research on the effects of organic practices on an agricultural system (i.e., cover crops, organic manure, and conservation tillage); (2) technological and methodological improvements for climate change mitigation on organic farming systems; and (3) increased understanding of the barriers to organic transition. Applications are due no later than 5 p.m. EST on March 9, 2017.

Rural Energy for America Program (REAP): Deadlines vary by grant type 

In an effort to facilitate sustainable farm development by way of efficient and renewable energy, USDA created REAP, an outgrowth of the Farm Bill’s energy title, through which REAP is allotted $50 million annually. REAP’s funding approach is two-pronged, with assistance going towards: (1) grants and guaranteed loans for farms and small rural businesses aiming to improve energy efficiency and implement renewable energy; and (2) energy audit and renewable grants for service providers who work with farmers and small rural businesses.

Because the types of REAP projects are wide-ranging, USDA offers a number of deadlines for its Notice of Solicitation for Applications. For farms and small businesses requesting grants under $20,000, the first batching deadline has already passed. However, the second batching deadline will be at 4:30 p.m. (local time) on March 31, 2017. Larger grant requests are also due at 4:30 p.m. on March 31, 2017. Finally, for farms and business requesting a private loan guarantee, there is a rolling deadline, which will begin the first month that 8 applications are turned in.


Categories: Carousel, Grants and Programs


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