The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced the availability of $22 million in grant funds to help launch new and expand existing programs to train beginning farmers, including a new initiative to train military veterans.
These federal grants will be awarded through two competitive programs administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA):
- Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) – the only USDA program specifically dedicated to training the next generation of farmers. BFRDP is entering its ninth and final annual round of grant funding before its authorization expires next year. BFRDP will need to be reauthorized in the 2018 Farm Bill in order to offer additional grant funding beyond FY2018.
- Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans (AgVets) – a new grant program offered for the first time this year that provides grants to non-profit organizations for training programs and services to establish and enhance farming and ranching opportunities for military veterans.
The Requests for Applications (RFA) for fiscal year (FY) 2018 for both programs were released last week and detailed information and application instructions are currently available on NIFA’s website. Organizations interested in applying for grant funding through either program must submit an electronic application through Grants.gov by 5:00pm EST on Thursday February 8th 2018.
Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program
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 nearly a decade this program has helped beginning producers across the country to start careers in agriculture, as well as to build and manage successful farm and ranch enterprises.
BFRDP was most recently reauthorized in the 2014 Farm Bill and provided with $20 million per year. The program’s authorization and funding expires in 2018, and will need to be reauthorized through the 2018 Farm Bill in order to continue to offer support to the next generation of farmers.
Grants issued by BFRDP support projects that address a variety of topics including: livestock and crop farming practices; land transfer strategies; business, financial and risk management training; curriculum development; mentoring and apprenticeships; agricultural rehabilitation and vocational training for veterans; and farm safety.
For a full list of eligible project topics, please see NSAC’s Grassroots Guide or the BFRDP Request for Applications. For more information on BFRDP, including tips and best practices for applicants and a detailed analysis of the program’s performance to date, see NSAC’s newest beginning farmer resource – Cultivating the Next Generation. This report is the first comprehensive analysis of BFRDP’s performance and impact over time on beginning and veteran farmers and ranchers.
Partnerships and Target Audience
BFRDP prioritizes applications from partnerships and collaborations that are led by or include nongovernmental, community-based, and school-based agricultural educational organizations with expertise in new agricultural producer training and outreach.
Additionally, at least five percent of total BFRDP funds must be directed towards projects that address the needs of limited resource and socially disadvantaged producers. These funds may also be used to support farm workers (including immigrants) desiring to begin careers as farmers or ranchers. An additional five percent of total program funds must be allocated toward projects that specifically address the needs of beginning farmers and ranchers who are military veterans. Though the targets are set at five percent, BFRDP typically exceeds them by a wide margin, reflecting their commitment to supporting underserved beginning farmer populations.
Grant Types and Amount
Similar to last year, the FY 2018 BFRDP RFA will provide funding for two types of grants: Standard grants and Educational Enhancement.
Standard BFRDP projects support new and established local and regional training, education, outreach and technical assistance initiatives for beginning farmers and ranchers, and the maximum award is limited to:
- $200,000 per year for up to three years for Large Standard Grants
- $100,000 per year for up to three years for Small Standard Grants
The same evaluation criteria are used for both small and large projects, including the priority for partnerships with non-profit and community-based organizations, but they will be evaluated separately.
Additionally, up to $600,000 is available for Educational Enhancement Team projects. These projects engage a team of experts to review beginning farmer and rancher curricula and programs to identify gaps, and develop, disseminate, and facilitate the use of materials and tools to address these gaps. Educational Enhancement Team projects may include “train-the-trainers” type activities.
Eligibility and Matching Funds
Applications for BFRDP funding may only be submitted by a collaborative state, tribal, local, or regionally-based network or partnership of qualified public and/or private entities.
Eligible collaborations may include: community based organizations (CBOs); nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); State Cooperative Extension Services; Federal, State, or tribal agencies; colleges and universities; and private organizations. Inclusion of farmers and ranchers as part of the collaborative group is strongly encouraged.
Evidence of farmer input on the proposed project is very important and will be used as an evaluation criterion in selecting grant applications to be funded. Applicants must provide matching funds in the amount of 25 percent of the total project budget, though these funds are not required to be secured until 30 days after award notification.
This is the first year that NIFA has offered the AgVets competitive grant program. The goal of AgVets is to increase the number of military veterans gaining the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in agricultural careers.
Nearly $5 million will be awarded to non-profit organizations who are interested in developing a model training program specifically designed for hands-on farming and ranching training for military veterans. Grant projects can be up to $1 million over three years, and no federal match is required. Interested applicants must submit a letter of intent by January 11, 2018.