NSAC's Blog

USDA Grant Funding Now Available to Support Farmers of Color and Military Veterans

July 16, 2019

Photo credit: USDA

Historically, farmers of color and military veterans have struggled to access vital farm programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). These disparities have existed for a number of reasons, including inadequate outreach to these communities by USDA, as well as institutional discrimination.

In order to better serve farmers of color and veteran farmers, Congress created the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as the “2501 Program”) nearly 30 years ago. USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE) administers the 2501 program, which helps to ensure that historically underserved producers have equitable access to the information, programs, and opportunities that will help them find success in agriculture.

This week, USDA announced the availability of over $16 million in Section 2501 grants to help organizations conduct targeted outreach and provide technical assistance to veterans and farmers of color.

For project ideas, check out the last year’s Section 2501 grantees.

Compressed 2019 Funding Cycle

OPPE released the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for the 2501 Program for fiscal year (FY) 2019 earlier this week, and applicants will have just 30 days to apply for grant funding this year.

All applications must be submitted via grants.gov by 11:59 pm EST on August 15, 2019.

With the delay in passing a new farm bill, and month-long government shutdown earlier this year, USDA has been behind on releasing most of its grant opportunities this year. However, coming just three months before the end of the fiscal year, this year’s 2501 RFA marks a record in bureaucratic delays. This administrative delay not only creates an impractical and unnecessarily compressed application window for grantees (especially taxing for limited capacity organizations), but puts the program’s grant funding at risk of expiring before awards can be made by the end of the fiscal year.

NSAC is calling on Congress to provide the necessary oversight to ensure that USDA follows Congress’s directives to allocate grant funding this year, and releases future funding announcements much earlier in the fiscal year, with at least 60 days for grantees to complete the complicated and time-consuming application process.

Details for Potential Applicants

This year’s FOA is largely unchanged from previous years with two significant changes to the grant award and project term. The maximum amount that organizations can apply for is now $250,000 per year for a total project length of three years. NSAC pushed hard for this change in the farm bill and are excited to see larger and longer grant funding available.

There is no match required for applications and only one project proposal may be submitted per eligible entity.

Grant funding will be awarded to three categories of applicants:

  • Category 1 – Minority serving academic institutions (e.g., 1890 and 1994 Land Grant Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, American Indian Tribal colleges)
  • Category 2 – Non-profit, community-based organizations, and Indian Tribes
  • Category 3 – Other academic institutions and organizations (e.g., 1862 Land Grant Universities)

Organizations must have demonstrated expertise in working with underserved, socially disadvantaged and/or veteran farmer communities.

USDA is soliciting project proposals that address the following program priorities, which are unchanged from last year:

  • Assist socially disadvantaged or veteran farmers and ranchers in owning and operating successful farms and ranches
  • Improve participation among socially disadvantaged or veteran farmers and ranchers in USDA programs
  • Build relationships between current and prospective socially disadvantaged or veteran farmers and ranchers and USDA’s local, state, regional and national offices
  • Introduce agriculture-related information to socially disadvantaged or veteran farmers and ranchers through innovative outreach and technical assistance techniques
  • Introduce agricultural education targeting socially disadvantaged youth and beginning farmers and ranchers, in rural and persistent poverty communities

Additional Resources:

USDA will host two upcoming conference calls to answer questions from potential grantees: the first will be on July 23 at 2:00 pm EST, and the second on August 6 at 2:00 pm EST. Additional details on those calls are included in the FOA.

Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers, Grants and Programs

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