February 2, 2021
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced the availability of $16.5 million in grant funds to help launch new and expand existing programs to train beginning farmers and ranchers. These federal grants will be awarded through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), which was reauthorized in the 2018 Farm Bill. To date, BFRDP remains the only USDA program specifically dedicated to training the next generation of America’s farmers and ranchers.
USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which administers BFRDP, formally released the Requests for Application (RFA) for fiscal years (FY) 2021 and 2022 in late December. Organizations interested in applying for grant funding must submit an electronic application through Grants.gov by 5:00pm EST on Thursday March 25, 2021 (for FY21 projects) and Thursday March 24, 2022 (for FY22 projects).
BFRDP is a competitive grants program that provides funding for educational, training, and technical assistance programs to assist beginning farmers and ranchers across the United States and U.S. territories. For over a decade, this program has helped aspiring producers to launch careers in agriculture, and beginning producers to maintain and grow successful farm and ranch businesses.
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 summary of recently funded projects and funding trends, check out our previous blog post.
Congress recently passed its fourth round of emergency relief to help farmers, small businesses, health care professionals, households and communities across the country combat the worsening impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Included in this package was an additional $40 million specifically to provide critical resources to new and beginning farmers through BFRDP. This funding is in addition to the funding Congress provided in the Farm Bill, totaling $17.5 million for FY 2021 and $20 million for FY 2022.
We therefore expect additional funding to be made available for BFRDP grants this year and next, which means more projects will be funded – boosting the success rate of applicants. Congress also provided additional flexibility for this supplemental BFRDP funding, including further reducing the match (if required) to 10 percent and allowing USDA to fund projects that exceed the $750,000 statutory maximum grant size. While there is no specific requirement for NIFA to direct this additional funding to projects that specifically address the COVID pandemic, it’s expected that projects will have much more flexibility to include COVID-related expenses and changes in programming in their project proposals and budgets this year and next.
However, we won’t know the exact details of changes to this funding cycle, including additional funds, until NIFA releases an updated RFA, which is expected to be published on NIFA’s website in the coming weeks.
There are three types of BFRDP projects which organizations can compete for in this funding round: Standard, Educational Teams, and Curriculum and Training Clearinghouse. Note: Clearinghouse grants will only be offered in FY 2022.
Standard BFRDP projects support new and established local and regional training, education, outreach and technical assistance initiatives for beginning farmers and ranchers. Most BFRDP funding will be awarded through Standard projects. The current maximum award for Standard Projects is limited to:
Note that these amounts may change due to the recently passed COVID legislation. Please check back at the NIFA website for an updated RFA expected soon.
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. Refer to the RFA for evaluation criteria for simplified grants.
Up to $600,000 is available for Educational Team (ET) projects. These projects aim to identify gaps in beginning farmer and rancher training by evaluating all existing programs, and to develop and conduct train-the-trainer projects to address these gaps. The main difference between ET and standard grants is that the target audience for ET projects are service providers, not beginning farmers themselves. Projects can focus on developing curricula, conducting education or workshops, or providing training or technical assistance. For more info on ET projects, check out this webinar hosted by the University of Minnesota, the current BFRDP Clearinghouse.
USDA will also recompete the BFRDP Curriculum and Training Clearinghouse next year, which is currently hosted by the University of Minnesota and available at https://farmanswers.org/. The primary purpose of the clearinghouse is to maintain a national “one-stop” source of beginning farmer and rancher education that includes online training materials and information for farmers and service providers.
Note: For all grant types, all work must be completed within three years.
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, municipal, or tribal agencies; colleges and universities; and private organizations. Priority will be given to partnerships with CBOs and NGOs, as well as those that address the needs of military veterans and farmers of color. Inclusion of farmers and ranchers as part of the collaborative group is strongly encouraged.
Evidence of farmer input on the proposed project is now required and will be used as an evaluation criterion in selecting grant applications to be funded.
USDA also encourages applicants to partner with extension programs specifically to assist urban agricultural production in food insecure communities, as well as with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to include training on conservation practices, farming principles and practices that increase biodiversity, enrich soils, improve watersheds, and enhance ecosystem services.
Applicants must provide matching funds in the amount of 25 percent of the total project budget (or 10 percent for additional COVID funds). However, applicants can request a waiver in order to effectively reach an underserved area or population – including farmers of color, limited resource farmers, veterans, women, persistently poor counties, geographically isolated rural communities, or urban growers.
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 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.
Additionally, NIFA and the BFRDP Clearinghouse will hold a series of stakeholder webinars to answer questions from applicants about the RFA and application process.. All of the webinars will start at 2pm ET and can be accessed at this link: https://z.umn.edu/BFRDP-Webinars. Webinar topics and schedule is as follows:
A link to webinar recordings can be found on the Farm Answers website.
For additional program details, see NSAC’s Grassroots Guide, or refer to any of the following links: