Risk Management Education & Partnership Grants Program


Program Basics

Risk management education and partnership programs fund projects to inform farmers about crop insurance, futures, options, forward contracts, as well as broader risk management topics such as crop and enterprise diversification, conservation planning, new and value-added markets, debt reduction, and asset building strategies.

There are several distinct grant programs funded under this general heading, including:

  • USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) manages the $5 million a year Risk Management Education (RME) Program to provide farmers with the knowledge, skills and tools needed to make informed risk management decisions for their operations, with the goal of enhancing farm profitability. The program operates through four regional risk management education centers, located at University of Delaware, Texas A&M, University of Nebraska, and Washington State University (see Implementation Basics for contact information).
  • USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) administers several programs, including two that apply nationally — Community Outreach and Assistance Partnerships (COAP) and Commodity Partnerships for Risk Management Education, and one — Crop Insurance Education in Targeted States — that is focused on providing crop insurance education solely in the 15 states with the lowest participation rates in the federal crop insurance program.

In recent years, each of these programs has funded a substantial number of projects related to sustainable and organic agriculture and to beginning, minority, and women farmers. The Community Outreach and Assistance Partnership Program in particular funds collaborative outreach and assistance initiatives between public and private entities that assist socially disadvantaged, beginning, and other traditionally under-served farmers and ranchers.

2008 Farm Bill Changes

The only farm bill change to the NIFA-administered regional Risk Management Education program was the addition of a special emphasis for awarding grants to risk management education projects that assist:

  • Beginning farmers or ranchers
  • Legal immigrant farmers or ranchers that are attempting to become established producers in the U.S.
  • Socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers
  • Farmers or ranchers that are preparing to retire and are pursuing transition strategies to help new farmers or ranchers get started
  • New or established farmers or ranchers that are converting production and marketing systems to pursue new markets

The mandatory funding was continued at $5 million a year.

The major change to the RMA-run programs was a cut in funding.  Prior to the 2008 Farm Bill, RMA received $20 million a year in mandatory funding which was used for contracting with schools and firms to do research and development for new crop insurance products and risk management strategies for underserved commodities and areas, and also for the partnership education and outreach programs.

In addition, $5 million a year in mandatory funding was available for Targeted States Education.

That $5 million for the 15 most underserved states (the northeastern states plus WY, UT, and NV; and the 2008 bill adds HI as the new 16th state) is continued in the new bill, but the $20 million amount for the R&D contracting and the partnership programs was cut to $12.5 million a year in mandatory funding.

The new bill also directed RMA to enter into contracts, paid out of the same $12.5 million a year, for research and development of 6 new or revised insurance productions:crop insurance for organic production, energy crops, aquaculture, and bees, plus revenue insurance for contract poultry producers and for beginning farmers.

In addition, RMA was given the discretionary authority to transfer up to $5 million a year from this same $12.5 million line item to improve its computer systems. As a result of the overall cut, the new mandated contracts, and the transfer authority, significantly less money will be available each year for the partnership education and outreach programs.

Section 12026 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (FCEA) of 2008 amends Section 524(a) of the Federal Crop Insurance Act to add the special beginning farmer emphasis to the NIFA (formerly CREES) Risk Management Education Program. The program and this change are codified at 7 U.S.C. 1524(a).

Section 12024 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (FCEA) of 2008 amends Section 522(e) of the Federal Crop Insurance Act to reduce mandatory funding for R&D contracting and partnership programs. The funding change will be codified at 7 U.S.C. 1522(e). Section 522(d) of the Federal Crop Insurance Act authorizes the Risk Management Partnership Programs. Section 524(a)(2) of the Federal Crop Insurance Act authorizes the Education for Underserved States program.

Funding

Risk Management Education and Outreach Funding

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

NIFA RME

$5 M

$5 M

$5M

$5 M

$5 M

RMA Targeted States Education

$5 M

$5 M

$5 M

$5 M

$5 M

RMA Partnership and Outreach Programs; R&D Contracting

$12.5 M

$12.5 M

$12.5 M

$12.5 M

$12.5 M

Please note: The funding levels in the chart above show the amount of mandatory funding reserved by the 2008 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. Therefore, despite its “mandatory” status, the funding level for a given year could be less than the farm bill dictates should the Appropriations Committee decide to raid the farm bill to fund other programs under its jurisdiction.

Implementation Basics – RME

Four regional centers administer the funding opportunities annually with input from producers and other stakeholders knowledgeable and interested in agricultural risk management:

Application is a two–step process. Applicants first submit a short, online pre-proposal and, if they are selected, a more detailed full proposal. Grant awards normally do not exceed $50,000 per project. The range of awards is generally from $5,000–$50,000; however, there is no absolute upper or lower limit on the funds provided to a project; awards reflect a mix of project sizes to meet a center’s investment goal of a balanced portfolio. NIFA has stated that awards go to projects that clearly identify risk management results and have a well-thought-out approach to achieve those results.

Implementation Basics – RMA

RMA announces the availability of funds for its partnership and cooperative agreements each year via the Federal Register and the RMA website (www.rma.usda.gov/aboutrma/agreements/). Partners conduct risk management and crop insurance education, community outreach and assistance, and research and development activities in close cooperation with RMA staff.

In 2010 the Risk Management Agency (RMA) expanded the scope of Community Outreach and Assistance risk management projects it will fund to include Farm to School, Food Safety and addressing Food Deserts (areas underserved by food retailers) with products from small farmers and ranchers. Other information about eligibility criteria is outlined in each Federal Register Request for Applications (see 2010 outreach notice for an example: http://www.rma.usda.gov/news/2010/03/outreach.pdf).

Applicants interested in RMA funding can go to the RMA website for an application checklist, instructions, samples, templates, and all required forms needed to prepare an application. Applicants should pay close attention to the closing date and time for receipt of an application as applications received after the deadline will not be considered.

Applications may be transmitted electronically via Grants.gov prior to the application date or time deadline. Go to http://www.grants.gov, click on “Find Grant Opportunities,” select “Search Grant Opportunities,” and enter the CFDA number (beginning of the RFA) to search by CFDA number. From the search results, select the item that correlates to the title of the RFA.

For application deadlines for RMA grants and links to the most current RFA, please go to: http://sustainableagriculture.net/publications/grassrootsguide/farm-bill-programs-and-grants/

Examples of Past Grant Recipients for the Community Outreach and Assistance Partnership Program

California FarmLink

California FarmLink received $105,000 in 2007 for a project entitled “Empowering Underserved Farmers to Manage Risk through Business Planning and Farm Financing” to offer trainings on business planning, farm financing, crop insurance, and land tenure to minority and young farmers, as well as succession planning.

Land Stewardship Project

Land Stewardship Project received $93,940 in 2007 for a New Forsenic Ag Project to help beginning farmers who want to raise alternative crops and livestock find strategies to mitigate risk.

Michael Fields Ag Institute

Michael Fields Ag Institute received $150,000 in 2007 to assist immigrant and other underserved farmers and ranchers increase the number of successful applications to RMA and other USDA programs by assuring that language and culture are not a barrier in completing an application.

Michigan Land Use Institute

The Michigan Land Use Institute received $88,744 in 2007 to help increase the number and success of small scale farmers in the region by providing targeted risk management and outreach planning, promotion, and delivery of information addressing production, marketing and financial risks.

Additional Resources

Risk Management Education Regional Centers website

RMA Programs website