NSAC's Blog


Grant Funding Available to Support Farmers of Color and Military Veterans

July 24, 2020


Old Gjerpen Farm Founder Richard Larson talks about business, the basics of grading sheep, and the benefits of showing sheep in competition during From Service to Stewardship workshop – funded by the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program.

Farmers of color and military veterans have historically struggled to access critical farm assistance and aid programs offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), largely a consequence of deliberate discrimination against them and insufficient outreach to their communities. Last week, USDA announced the availability of $15 million to support organizations working with these underserved farming communities.

To increase funding and support for socially disadvantaged farmers, Congress created the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, more commonly known as the “2501 Program,” administered by USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE). The program offers flexible funding to help farmers of color and more recently, military veterans, provide outreach and technical assistance  that addresses the needs of their communities. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and our allies have worked to build awareness about the value of the 2501 program, and fought to permanently fund the program  in the 2018 Farm Bill through the creation of the Farming Opportunity Training and Outreach (FOTO) program.

USDA recently announced the availability of $15 million in grant funding for the 2501 program, available for projects beginning this year. For grant applicants who are unable to complete their applications for this year in the 45 day window, another Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) will be released early next year for FY 2021 projects.

For project ideas, view last year’s 2501 grant projects here.

All applications for FY20 must be submitted via grants.gov by 11:59 pm EST on August 26th, 2020.

Similar to years past, this funding announcement is significantly delayed – being released less than a few months from the end of the fiscal year when all grant funding must be obligated by USDA. NSAC has flagged this consistent delay in funding as an urgent issue that must be addressed by USDA, or Congress. With a national pandemic continuing to impact the entire country – including farmers of color and the community-based organizations who support them – it is unacceptable for USDA to allow organizations only 45 days to prepare and submit complex and time-consuming grant applications.

Application Details

The maximum grant amount that organizations can apply for has been reduced to $450,000 for a three year project, with the maximum award per year capped at $150,000. This is a change from previous funding rounds which allowed applicants to receive up to $250,000 per year. Applicants are allowed to request a one year no-cost extension if unable to complete their grant project.

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

Similar to previous years, grant funding will be awarded across three categories of applicants:

  1. 1890 and 1994 Land Grant colleges and universities, Native American Tribes, and Hispanic-Serving Institutions of higher education
  2. Nonprofit organizations, community-based organizations, including a network or a coalition of community-based organizations, Indian Tribes
  3. Other academic institutions, nonprofit organizations without a 501(c)(3) status certification from the IRS, and other organizations

Funds will be awarded to organizations and institutions that have documented knowledge of and experience with USDA programs and experience in providing education and support to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers or veteran farmers and ranchers during the 3-year period preceding the submission of an application.

Priority will be given to nongovernmental and community-based organizations.

USDA is soliciting project proposals that address the following program priorities, which remain the same from the last two years:

  • 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

USDA is hosting a webinar on Tuesday July 28 to review program details and address any questions from stakeholders and grant applicants.

  • Webinar details: July 28, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. EST, Telephone Number: (877) 692-8955, Passcode: 6433267

For additional information on the 2501 program, check out NSAC’s Grassroots Guide.

To apply, please follow the instructions in the 2501 Funding Opportunity Announcement, also available on grants.gov (search for Funding Announcement “OPPE-014”)

Missing Funding

While Congress provided $17.5 million in funding for the 2501 program for FY20, NSAC and our partners were concerned to learn that USDA has redirected $2 million of this funding to fund a separate, administratively created initiative, rather than support the longstanding 2501 program as Congress intended. 

Announced only a few days before the 2501 program, USDA launched a new Centers for Community Prosperity initiative that seeks to address economic development in persistent poverty communities. While the new program does include socially disadvantaged farmers as a target audience, the program is broader in focus (including beginning, limited resource and other historically underserved producers) and much more prescriptive in project design than the 2501 program.

The program requires organizations to set up Local Prosperity Councils (with strict requirements for the partners that must be appointed to this council), rather than allow organizations to design projects and structures that reflect the needs of their communities. While the program may have some merit on its own, it clearly extends beyond both the scope and purpose of the 2501 program and should not be funded with designated 2501 funding.

NSAC is urging Congress to ensure this funding is redirected back into the 2501 program, as intended, and that future appropriations for the 2501 support the long-standing program to provide outreach and technical assistance to socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers.

USDA hosted  a webinar to answer questions and concerns from stakeholders about the new Centers for Community Prosperity initiative, including how the program is intended to align with the 2501 program. The webinar recording and FAQs will be posted on the OPPE website.


Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers, Carousel


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