February 7, 2011
On Monday, February 7, the Land Stewardship Project (LSP) issued a report evaluating the 2010 grant allocations through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Project (BFRDP), administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). NSAC collaborated on the evaluation and report.
The evaluation included a phone survey of all 40 projects funded by the program in 2010. Program evaluation was based on grant distribution; partnerships and collaborations; regional distribution; type, scale, and duration of projects; usage of 25 percent set-aside for socially disadvantaged producers; challenges for recipients; and finally, emerging trends.
The program received 117 applications in 2010 for a total funding request of $65.1 million. From these applications, 40 were awarded funding, for a total award of over $18 million. Of the 40, 25 awards went to projects led by community-based or non-governmental organizations, while 15 went to academic institutions. In 2010, there was a 37 percent increase from 2009 in grants awarded as well as an increase in the number of grants with sub-grantees.
Of the funded projects, 24 projects targeted socially disadvantaged communities to some degree, far exceeding the 25 percent set-aside established by law. However, the degree to which these projects targeted socially disadvantaged farmers was not always clear. A total of 7 projects dedicated 100 percent of their efforts to working with socially disadvantaged farmers, while the remainder demonstrated wide variation in the degree of focus.
Of the four regions of the country (northeast, south, midwest, and west), the South had the lowest number of awarded projects and grant funding in 2009, but the greatest number of awarded projects and grant funding in 2010. This speaks well to successful efforts at outreach by the USDA program leader. Overall, regional distribution was fairly equitable.
The report divides recommendations for the future into programmatic and administrative recommendations. Programmatic recommendations include placing higher priority on community-based organizations; encouraging partnerships and collaborations; and encouraging applicants to specify numbers of beginning farmers and ranchers to be assisted.
Administrative recommendations focus on making the application process easier to follow and less time-consuming, and to continue outreach efforts to make more organizations around the country aware of when the annual request for proposals will be forthcoming.
Last year, NSAC, working with LSP and other NSAC member groups, made numerous recommendations to improve the 2009 iteration of the competitive grant program, and a number of these recommendations were incorporated by USDA into the 2010 Request for Application (RFA). These changes included a requirement to identify project partners in the management plan; a stipulation that only applications with at least 25 percent of the project budget allocated to community-based or non-governmental organizations receive priority status; creation of a new “development grant” category; more specific language related to the minimum 25 percent of funds set-aside for projects targeted at limited resource, socially disadvantaged and immigrant farmers; and the addition of multi-year experience in successfully training new farmers as one of the project evaluation criteria.
For the full Land Stewardship Project 2010 report, click here.