NSAC's Blog

New $25 Million Funding Opportunity to Provide Technical Assistance to Underserved Farmers Closes Soon

May 12, 2022

Photo credit: USDA

In March, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new investment of $25 million in grants for the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Technical Assistance Investment Program (ARPTAI) – a new program to provide historically underserved farmers, ranchers and forest landowners technical support in accessing USDA programs and services. The Request for Application (RFA) process is currently underway and closes at 5pm ET on June 1, 2022.

Initiated under Section 1006 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the goal of the American Rescue Plan Technical Assistance Investment Program is to improve “understanding of and equitable participation in the full range of USDA programs and services among underserved farmers, ranchers, forest landowners and operators through supporting the organizational delivery of technical assistance projects and establishment of technical assistance networks.” USDA will invest a minimum of $25 million in the program but also notes that there is no anticipated maximum funding level.  With such an investment in supporting underserved farmers and ranchers, NSAC welcomes the opportunity for stakeholders to receive new federal support to continue providing technical assistance and mentorship services to these farmers.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is the lead agency soliciting applications. Projects are expected to run for 5 years with awards ranging from $500,000 to $3.5 million.

Who is Eligible to Apply?

USDA will fund “cooperators,” who will work collaboratively with the agency through a cooperative agreement to provide targeted outreach and technical assistance programs to underserved producers. Eligible “cooperators” include nonprofit organizations and institutions of higher education, specifically:

  • Nonprofit organizations focused on serving targeted audiences 
  • 1862 Land-grant institutions; 1890 Land-grant Institutions; 1994 Tribal Land-grant Institutions; Alaska Native serving institutions and Native Hawaiian serving institutions; Hispanic-serving post-secondary educational institutions 
  • Insular area institutions of higher education located in the territories of the United States 
  • Domestic private institutions of higher education
  • Domestic private and/or public community colleges 
  • Other accredited post-secondary agriculture-related educational institutions

Projects that include partnerships and collaborations with other organizations that have a proven track record of working with underserved producers and led by eligible nonprofits and institutions of higher education are encouraged.

Technical Assistance and Outreach Activities

According to USDA, acceptable technical assistance and outreach activities should focus on improving the producer’s access to USDA programs and services in the areas of agricultural production, credit, rural development, financial literacy, risk management, mediation, cooperative development, market planning, land access, financial planning, business planning, and tax planning.  Activities can include:

  • Strategies to identify unique needs and gaps among underserved producers regarding access, knowledge, and services through methods such as needs assessments, interviews, focus groups and/or network analysis; 
  • Specialized consultation, training, coaching, and demonstrations on relevant topics;
  • Capacity building training efforts, such as grant writing, resource development, and peer navigation training; 
  • Mentoring; 
  • Creating awareness and connecting producers to other agricultural resources, which could include topics such as producer wellness; and 
  • Language translation for materials and communications.

Please note that incentives to encourage program participation are not allowable costs. However, participant support costs, such as stipends, travel costs, subsistence allowance, and conference or meeting fees are allowable under ARPTAI projects. ​​Projects should incorporate promising and evidence-based practices into their technical assistance services related to financial assistance, market access and market coordination, land/water/equipment access tools and techniques such as used farm equipment, and key principles related to engagement in building critical agriculture infrastructure.

Additionally, project plans must include strategies for providing technical assistance, program development, curriculum development, deployment and evaluation of impact in each area of the planned activities for which the applicant is providing narrative discussion.  This should include how the outcomes of the proposed program activities will be measured through both quantitative and qualitative methods.

Project Guidelines

For improved project success and effectiveness, applicants are encouraged to develop their proposals based on the following set of guiding principles:

  1. Collaborative – Foster engagement and close collaborations with community leaders, agricultural organizations, and relevant stakeholders to develop and implement targeted activities. The applicant will determine their relevant stakeholder communities and connect community needs to targeted activities. The project will also embed collaboration with USDA in new ways to meet the needs of the targeted audience.
  2. Systematic – Utilize a sequential, progressive approach to service delivery that addresses the needs of the target audience as identified through ongoing technical support.
  3. Targeted -Determine where technical assistance will have the greatest impact.
  4. Adaptive – Allow for flexibility in service delivery as new needs or challenges emerge.
  5. Customized – Respond to the unique needs of the targeted audiences and organizations.
  6. Results-driven – Identify measures to successfully target a greater audience to be served by the activities and to achieve greater access to USDA programs and services over time.

What Sets ARPTAI Apart from the 2501 Program?

One question that has come up is how USDA’s new ARPTAI program differs from the already established Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program or “The 2501 Program.”  According to USDA, the main difference lies in who is being served by the new ARPTAI program.  This target audience includes socially disadvantaged and veteran producers as does the 2501 Program but is broader and includes economically distressed, underserved, limited resource producers, and other key targeted individuals and communities. Note, for the purpose of the ARPTAI, there is no statutory definition for “underserved,” but the applicant is expected to provide “sufficient rationale and evidence the target audience is economically distressed, underserved, or a member of other similarly situated groups” that could benefit from technical assistance and outreach.

The 2501 program is also a grant program and not funded via cooperative agreements which establishes a collaborative relationship between USDA and the recipient. This means that USDA will substantially engage with “cooperators” in the planning and the delivery of their activities with underserved producers. This includes actively participating in planning and progress meetings, and reviewing technical progress reports.

For more information read USDA’s factsheet and visit the RFA or contact National Program Leader, Ahlishia Shipley: ahlishia.shipley@usda.gov

Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers, Carousel, Grants and Programs

2 responses to “New $25 Million Funding Opportunity to Provide Technical Assistance to Underserved Farmers Closes Soon”

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