NSAC's Blog


RFA Roundup: Deadlines for Federal Food and Farm Program Grants

October 28, 2016


Chris Schreiner and Jade Florence, NSAC Summer Meeting 2016. Photo credit: Reana Kovalcik, NSAC.

Chris Schreiner and Jade Florence, NSAC Summer Meeting 2016. Photo credit: Reana Kovalcik, NSAC.

The start-up of the new fiscal year (FY) means that many food and farm programs have started to get out Requests for Applications (RFAs) for their grant programs. While a flood of grant program announcements is generally good news, with so many coming out in the midst of a busy election year, it can be easy to lose track of deadlines and other important information. In order to help you cut through the chaos and keep track of the deadlines relevant for your food and farm businesses and organizations, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has put together this summary of relevant U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) active RFAs.

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. Farmers and food producers are busy people, as are those who run the sustainable agriculture organizations that support them; we hope this list will be a useful reference guide for those looking for grant assistance.

For more 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:

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

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 will be 4:30pm local time on October 31, 2016, followed by the second batching deadline of 4:30pm on March 31, 2017. The deadline for larger grant requests is also 4:30 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.

Risk Management Education Program (RME): November 17, 2016 (for all four regions of the country)

The RME program, administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), awards grants to any extension or nonprofit organization engaging in risk management education and training projects. Projects are encouraged to target beginning, socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers. RME grants are administered regionally by four Extension Risk Management Education (ERME) Centers. While the overall purpose of the program remains the same across the regions, different regions are able to highlight differing priorities to better align with regional needs. See details below and for more information, visit our blog:

  • North Central ERME Center RFA:
    • The North Central Center will focus in on projects addressing producer risk management education, including environmental regulations and water quality concerns.
  • Northeast ERME Center RFA:
    • The Northeast Center lists six priorities in its RFA, including projects focused on beginning farmers; for example, education on leases and land tenure agreements as well as leadership training on topics like crop insurance.
  • Southern ERME Center RFA:
    • Priorities include projects directed towards beginning, veteran and traditionally underserved farmer risk management education, crop insurance education and guidance on implementation, marketing strategies, and training related to the Food Safety Modernization Act.
  • Western ERME Center RFA:
    • The Western Center identifies two priority topics within its Education projects: production risk resulting from climate variability, with reference to adaptive technologies, and improving record keeping systems for farmers preparing to comply with new food safety requirements under the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program (CFP): November 30, 2016

CFP grants are awarded to projects promoting local and regionally based food security through community-based engagement targeted at low-income regions. Through this NIFA-backed program, grants are divided between Planning Projects and Implementation Projects. Applicants will be assessed on their ability to meet local food needs, increase food sovereignty, and/or provide infrastructure to meet these needs. Grants are one-time only and require a dollar-for-dollar resource match, which can be met through in-kind support. For more information on CFPs and how projects can offer local solutions to local issues, refer to NIFA’s official RFA and website. Applications are due 5 p.m. on November 30, 2016.  

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

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 Southern-SARE (S-SARE) have open grant application periods. To learn more, refer to NSAC’s recent SARE Roundup blog.

  • NCR-SARE
    • Youth Educator Grants: For proposals that engage with and teach the youth of the region about sustainable agriculture practices – applications due November 10, 2016 at 4 p.m. CST.
    • Farmer Rancher Sustainable Agriculture Grants: For farmers and ranchers seeking to perform research, testing and education projects directly on their farmland – deadline for proposals at 4 p.m. CST on December 8, 2016.
  • S-SARE
    • On-Farm Research Grants: A program to support universities, government agencies, nonprofits, and farmers to perform on-farm research. Applications are due at 5 p.m. on November 18, 2016.
    • Producer Grants: For farmers and ranchers engaging in projects (i.e., on-farm testing) to solve universal problems and ultimately inform the farming community based on the results. Applications due at 5 p.m. on November 18, 2016.

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

BFRDP, administered by 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 Program: December 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.


Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers, Carousel, Conservation, Energy & Environment, Grants and Programs, Local & Regional Food Systems, Nutrition & Food Access, Organic, Research, Education & Extension


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