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RFA Roundup: Funding Opportunities in the New Year

January 4, 2018


Filling out paperwork

Photo credit: Reana Kovalcik

The New Year may have just started, but there are already many federal funding opportunities available for eligible farmers, ranchers, non-profits, and universities. Several of these opportunities opened last year and have rapidly approaching deadlines. Others have been more recently posted, and you may have missed the Request for Application (RFA) announcement during the end-of-year holiday hustle. As part of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s (NSAC) ongoing efforts to help farmers and advocates stay up to date with federal policy and funding opportunities, we have provided a list and detailed descriptions of open RFAs that may be of interest to the sustainable agriculture community.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants are available for a variety of projects and purposes, including: beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer engagement; risk management; renewable energy implementation; and farm to school projects. We hope that this list will be a useful reference for family farmers and eligible entities looking to advance sustainable agriculture.

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

Open RFAs – Listed by Deadline

Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG), Deadline: January 24, 2018 for electronic applications and January 31, 2018 for paper applications:

Administered by USDA Rural Development, VAPG is a competitive grant program that provides producers with working capital as well as funds for feasibility studies, business plans, or marketing efforts to establish viable value-added businesses. Last summer, USDA announced the availability of at least $18 million in funding through the competitive VAPG program in fiscal year (FY) 2018. Up to $75,000 is available for planning grants and up to $250,000 is available for implementation grants.

Electronic applications must be submitted through www.grants.gov.

USDA has created a “toolkit” for applicants, which includes an application checklist, templates, required grant forms, and instructions (this can be found under the “Forms & Resources” tab). Interested applicants may also consult NSAC’s Farmers’ Guide to Applying for the Value-Added Producer Grant Program for further details. NSAC’s “Farmers’ Guides” are free resources that walk farmers and advocates through USDA programs by providing step-by-step descriptions of the application and ranking processes.

Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program (BFRDP), Deadline: February 8, 2018, 5:00pm EST:

BFRDP is a competitive grants program that provides funding to support the development of educational, training, and technical assistance programs to assist beginning farmers and ranchers. For FY 2018, USDA has announced $22 million in grant funds will be made available to help launch new and expand existing programs to train beginning farmers, including a new initiative to train military veterans. The FY 2018 RFA can be accessed here.

For more information on how BFRDP works and how the program has performed for producers over time, check out NSAC’s recent publication: Cultivating the Next Generation. This report is the first ever comprehensive analysis of BFRDP’s performance and impact over time.

Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG), Deadline: February 26, 2018, 5:00pm EST:

Part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the CIG program is administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and provides grant funding for the development, application, and demonstration of innovative conservation technologies and approaches. This includes pilot projects, field demonstrations, and on-farm conservation research. In FY 2018, there are $10 million available in competitive grant funds for qualified applicants. Applications should be submitted through grants.gov.

Each year, NRCS identifies priority categories within CIG, which seek to prioritize new or emerging natural resource issues. This year’s announcement included three priority areas: Grazing Lands, Organic Agriculture Systems, and Soil Health.

NRCS will be holding a webinar for interested potential applications on January 11, 2018 at 4:00pm EST, which can be accessed here. You can also see previous examples of CIG projects on NRCS’ website, here.

Organic Research and Education Initiative (OREI), Deadline: March 1, 2018:

OREI grants provide crucial support to the organic industry by funding research, education, and extension projects to improve and advance organic agriculture.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) estimates there will be a total of $17.6 million available for projects in FY 2018. Interested applicants can access the RFA here.

In addition to its legislative mandates, NIFA prioritizes several research areas based on demand and stakeholder input. There are nine priority areas for FY 2018, including a new priority focused specifically on policy. This new priority area is intended for projects that “identify marketing, policy, and other socioeconomic barriers to the expansion of organic agriculture in the United States and develop strategies to address them. Lobbying and advocacy activities do not fit under this priority.” OREI project types include:

  • Integrated Project Proposals: Integrated projects proposals, which can include projects of different scopes – Multi-RegionalRegional, and Targeted ­– will be those that will contribute to at least two of OREI’s three main agricultural knowledge systems: research, education, and/or extension. Multi-Regional Integrated Projects will receive a maximum of $2,000,000, Regional Integrated Projects will receive a maximum of $1,000,000, and Targeted Projects will receive a maximum of $500,000. Projects must include a plan for disseminating project outcomes.
  • Conference Proposals: Projects focused on creating or supporting workshops and symposia to bring together different organic stakeholders in order to advance the organic production sector will be categorized as conference proposals. These projects will be awarded a maximum of $50,000 and projects must be carried out within one year of receiving this grant.
  • Research, Education, and Extension Planning Proposals: Applicants for these proposals are generally expected to have limited resources and should be able to show evidence for the projects’ benefits in addition to its expected success rate. These awards will be limited to $50,000 and must be used within one year of receiving this project grant. Small and minority-serving institutions are particularly encouraged to apply.
  • Curriculum Development Proposals: For projects that help to form new university (both undergraduate and graduate) curriculum in organic agriculture. Proposals are encouraged to include partnerships with multiple academic institutions in order to facilitate the most effective instruction within a given grant’s capacity. These grants will be awarded at a maximum of $250,000 for a project period of two years total.

Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers, Conservation, Energy & Environment, Grants and Programs, Local & Regional Food Systems, Marketing and Labeling, Research, Education & Extension, Rural Development


6 responses to “RFA Roundup: Funding Opportunities in the New Year”

  1. Do happen to know of any opportunities for non-farmer processing companies focused on value added local food?

  2. Reana Kovalcik says:

    For federal support it would be an agency other than USDA, so we wouldn’t have any information on that, unfortunately. I would check with the SBA (Small Business Association).

  3. Is there any update on the 2018 Farm Bill? The Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) Program, provides significant benefits to farmers as well as those people on food stamps. Those smaller farmers could be severely impacted by this.

  4. Reana Kovalcik says:

    Hi Carol. We’ll report on any updates relevant to the sustainable ag community (including FINI) as we become aware of them. Stay tuned.

  5. Wendy says:

    Is there any funding for community garden organizations?

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