Risk Management Education Program


Providing grants for agricultural risk management training

Farming is an inherently risky activity: a crop can by wiped out at any time by a host of events beyond a farmer’s control, such as hail or wind, disease, and drought. Market and price volatility is also a constant in agriculture. There are a variety of actions a farmer can take to mitigate or lessen the inherent risk in farming. Farmers can purchase insurance policies, diversify the crops they grow, enter into production contracts, implement farm resource risk reduction techniques, and perform other activities to reduce risk. The Risk Management Education Program (RME) provides funding through four regional centers and one digital center to help farmers learn how to better mitigate risk on their farms. The RME program helps provide farmers with information about what they can do on their farm to reduce risk, and increase the financial stability and future viability of their farming operations.

 Learn More About RME!

Program Basics
 The RME Program funds projects to provide farmers with the knowledge, skills, and tools needed to make informed risk management decisions for their operations. Risk management strategies can range from futures, options, and forward contracts to broader strategies such as crop and enterprise diversification, conservation planning, new and value-added markets, and asset building. The program currently has five priority topics — production, price or marketing, human resources, legal, and financial risk.

The program is managed by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and operates through four regional centers and a fifth national digital center:

  • North Central Center: University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension
  • Northeast Center: University of Delaware Cooperative Extension
  • Southern Center: University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture
  • Western Center: Washington State University Cooperative Extension
  • Digital Center for Risk Management Education: University of Minnesota

NIFA makes the initial grants to the four regional centers that then solicit grant applications from the regions they represent. The regional centers all use the same process for soliciting and picking grantees, but each sets its own priorities to align with their region’s needs. The Universities that house the regional centers compete from time to time for that hosting privilege. The last competition took place in 2009.

The 2008 Farm Bill directed NIFA to emphasize grants to risk management education projects that assist:

  • Beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers
  • Legal immigrant farmers or ranchers
  • Farmers preparing to retire and pursuing transition strategies to help new farmers get started
  • Farmers converting production and marketing systems to pursue new markets

Eligibility

Organizations eligible to apply for the grants awarded by the regional centers include land grant and other colleges and universities, Cooperative Extension, and other public and private entities with a demonstrated capacity to develop and deliver educational programs for agricultural producers, including farm groups, lenders, risk management service providers, and community-based organizations (including nonprofits). Collaborative proposals are strongly encouraged.

The Program in Action

RME regional centers have funded about 1,000 projects in every state since their creation in 2002 after the program was authorized in 2000. These projects have engaged tens of thousands of farmer participants in risk management education training. In Fiscal Year 2012 alone, 35 projects in 23 states were funded, serving over 50,000 participants.

Examples of recent projects include:  

  • University of Wyoming Extension received funding for for Annie’s Project to deliver risk management programing targeted specifically for women, including project components on production, price, financial, legal, and human resources risks.
  • San Juan Resource Conservation and Development Council in Southwest Colorado received an RME grant to address price, production, and financial risks associated with alternative direct marketing to restaurants, retail outlets, and schools.
  • Glenn County Resource Conservation district used funding to address the business planning needs of beginning and retiring farmers in Northern California through workshops on financial risk management topics.

How to Apply and Program Resources

The RME program was created by Congress in 2000 and is funded at $5 million annually. Generally, the range of awards for single region projects is between $5,000 and $50,000. Multi-region projects are allowed, but a separate application must be submitted to each region. There are four regions: Western, North Central, Southern and Northeastern.

Each year, each of the four regional centers releases a Request for Applications (RFA) typically sometime during the fall, and will keep the application period open through early November. All of the regional centers use the same evaluation criteria and process for choosing project grantees, and have the same online grant application. The applications is accessed through each regional center’s website, not grants.gov.

All of the centers set different funding priorities, as outlined in the RFA, that are based on the priorities of each region.

Grant awardees are chosen at the regional level by each regional center’s review panel. Awards are typically made in May of the following year.

More information on how to apply for grants can be found on each Center’s website:

More general information on the RME program can be found on the NIFA program website or on the Regional Center website. 

Program History, Funding, and Farm Bill Changes

The RME program was created in 2000 upon passage of the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000. Since then, the program has received $5 million in mandatory funding per year to support regionally focused risk management training efforts. The 2008 Farm Bill amended the program to increase its focus on certain populations, including a specific priority on projects that support:

  • Beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers
  • Legal immigrant farmers or ranchers
  • Farmers preparing to retire and pursuing transition strategies to help new farmers get started
  • Farmers converting production and marketing systems to pursue new markets

The 2014 Farm Bill retains those priorities and further amended the program to specifically mention farm financial benchmarking as a specific risk management strategy the program can support. However, the list of risk management strategies contained in the law does not limit RMA’s ability to promote other risk management strategies. Farm financial benchmarking involves comparing the performance of similar farms using data in order to identify the strengths and weaknesses of an agricultural enterprise.

Risk Management Education Program Funding 

Fiscal Year Total Farm Bill Mandatory Funding (in millions)
2014 $5
2015 $5
2016 $5
2017 $5
2018 $5
5 yr total $25
10 yr total $50

Please note: The funding levels in the chart above show the amount of mandatory funding reserved by the 2014 Farm Bill for this program to be provided through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation.  However, Congress does at times pass subsequent appropriations legislation that caps the funding level for a particular year for a particular program at less than provided by the farm bill in order to use the resulting savings to fund a different program. In addition, OREI is subject to automatic cuts as part of an annual sequestration process established by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Therefore, despite its “mandatory” status, the funding level for a given year could be less than the farm bill dictates should the Appropriations Committees decide to raid the farm bill to fund other programs under its jurisdiction.

Authorizing Language:

 Section 133 of the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000 amended the Federal Crop Insurance Act, further amended by Section 12026 of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 and Section 11027(c) of the Agricultural Act of 2014, 7 U.S.C. 1524(a).

Page last updated September 2016