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SARE Roundup: Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program Opportunities

September 19, 2019


Editor’s Note: This is the latest in a series of periodic blog posts on the happenings in each of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) regions, focusing on project solicitations and grant award announcements.

Over the last 30 years, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program has funded more than 6,800 farmer-driven research and education initiatives through competitive grant awards totaling nearly $273 million. As the only farmer-driven, sustainable agriculture competitive research grant program offered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), SARE provides farmers and researchers with vital opportunities to better understand agricultural systems and to increase profitability and resilience. In addition to research, many SARE projects also address social and demographic challenges faced by farming communities, including challenges faced by minority and underserved farmers, access to land, challenges for young and beginning farmers, and rural quality of life.

SARE is administered through four regional councils of producers, researchers, educators, and government representatives. SARE regions include: North Central, Northeast, Southern, and Western. These regional councils are responsible for setting SARE policies and grant making processes. Because each of the SARE councils designs and administers their own regional grant programs, NSAC provides a periodic aggregation of funding opportunities and other activities from across the regions in our “SARE Roundup.”

Each of SARE’s four regional programs administers three primary grant programs: Research and Education (R&E), Professional Development Program (PDP), and Producer Grants. Some regions also offer additional grants for community innovation, graduate student research, agricultural professionals conducting on-farm research, and region-specific initiatives.

Read on for details about what is going on in your SARE region!

North Central SARE

Earlier this month, NC-SARE announced a call for pre-proposals for its 2020 Research and Education Grant Program and a call for proposals for three other grant programs: the 2020 Partnership Grant Program, the 2020 Farmer Rancher Grant Program, and the 2020 Youth Educator Grant Program.

The Research and Education Grant Program supports projects by collaborative teams of scientists, farmers/ranchers, institutions, organizations, and educators exploring sustainable agriculture through research or education. These projects explore and promote environmentally sound, profitable, and socially responsible food and/or fiber systems. All projects include a strong outreach component and significant involvement from farmers/ranchers or end users from inception to implementation. NC-SARE anticipates awarding $3 million to fund approximately 12 grant projects (pending FY 2020 Congressional appropriations). Awards range from $10,000 to $250,000. Projects may last up to 36 months or may opt to propose a long-term project (lasting more than 3 years).

The deadline for 2020 Research and Education Grant Program is October 10, 2019.

The Partnership Grant Program supports projects that foster cooperation between agriculture professionals and small groups of farmers and ranchers to catalyze on-farm research, demonstration, and education activities related to sustainable agriculture. NC-SARE anticipates awarding $560,000 to fund 14 projects this year, with each project receiving up to $40,000. Projects are funded for up to 24 months and typically involve three or more farmers or ranchers. University educators, including extension agents and specialists, NRCS field staff, agricultural consultants, and nonprofit or agency staff assisting farmers and ranchers at the local level can apply for this grant program.

The deadline for 2020 Partnership Grant Program is October 24, 2019.

The Youth Educator Grant Program is available to educators and supports projects by youth educators that encourage youth to try sustainable practices and explore sustainable agriculture as a viable career option. The program provides opportunities for youth, parents, and community members in the North Central Region to learn about farming and ranching that is ecologically sound, profitable, and socially responsible. NC-SARE allocated $40,000 for FY 2020 and grantees can receive up to $4,000 to carry out programming on sustainable agriculture for youth. Projects must be completed in 23 months. Grant recipients receive 75 percent of funding at the beginning of the project, and the remaining 25 percent of funds is reimbursed upon completion of the project.

The deadline for 2020 Youth Educator Grant Program is November 14, 2019.

The Farmer Rancher Grant Program supports projects by farmers and ranchers who want to explore innovative sustainable solutions to problems through on-farm research, demonstration, and education projects. Farmer Rancher grants have funded projects addressing a variety of issues including pest/disease management, crop and livestock production, quality of life issues, marketing, soil quality, energy, and more. NC-SARE expects to award $720,000 for the 2020 Farmer Rancher Grant Program. Projects must be completed in 23 months, and award limits vary based on grant team size: individual grants can receive up to $9,000, team of two grants can receive up to $18,000, and group grants (3 or more farmers/ranchers) can receive up to $27,000.

The deadline for 2020 Farmer Rancher Grant Program is December 5, 2019.

For a list of NC-SARE grants funded in your region, check out these examples or search the SARE database!

Northeast SARE

NE-SARE will open its call for Farmer Grants proposals in mid-October 2019. Farmer Grants support commercial farmers who want to test a new idea using a field trial, on-farm demonstration, marketing initiative, or other technique. Working with a technical advisor, producers develop, refine, and demonstrate new sustainable techniques and explore innovative ideas that improve profits, better stewardship, and strengthen rural communities. Projects can receive up to $15,000 and projects can last up to two years.

The deadline for 2020 Farmer Grants will be December 3, 2019.

The Research and Education Grants Program supports projects that result in farmers gaining knowledge and skills they can apply to make verifiable changes that lead to greater sustainability. Projects can be submitted with or without an applied research component, but all projects must have an outcome-based education program for farmers. Projects may focus on environmental quality, financial viability, and social sustainability topics, including farm succession, equity, community connections, and farmer health and well-being.  Projects typically last two to three years. Pre-proposals are required for Research and Education projects, and they were due June 25, 2019. The next step in the grant process is for invited proposals to submit a full proposal.

The deadline for 2020 Research and Education Grants invited proposals is October 29, 2019.

The Research for Novel Approaches Grants Program funds projects that conduct applied research testing the feasibility of new practices and approaches that have high potential for adoption by farmers. Projects may explore practices related to production, marketing, business management, human resource management, farm family issues, or other topics relevant to sustainable agriculture. NE-SARE defines “novel approaches” as approaches that have some evidence of being beneficial but need more data before recommending the approach for farmer adoption. Projects last between two to three years. Pre-proposals are required for Research for Novel Approaches projects, and they were due June 25, 2019. The next step in the grant process is for invited proposals to submit a full proposal.

The deadline for 2020 Research for Novel Approaches Grants invited proposals is October 29, 2019.

The Professional Development Grants Program supports train-the-trainer projects that will help educators and agricultural service providers teach farmers about sustainable practices and approaches more effectively. Projects must be directed toward increasing the knowledge, skills and abilities of educators, and they last between two to three years. Agricultural service providers include Cooperative Extension agents, state department of agriculture personnel, crop consultants, veterinarians, farm advisors with private businesses, and nonprofit organizations. Pre-proposals are required for Professional Development projects, and they were due June 25, 2019. The next step in the grant process is for invited proposals to submit a full proposal.

The deadline for 2020 Professional Development Grants invited proposals is October 29, 2019.

NE-SARE’s remaining grant programs closed their calls for proposals earlier this year. The next round of funding for Graduate Student Grants and for Partnership Grants will be available in late winter 2020.

For a list of NE-SARE grants funded in your region, check out these examples or search the SARE database!

Southern SARE

S-SARE has announced a call for proposals for 2020 Producer Grants.

Producer Grants support farmers and ranchers in developing sustainable production and marketing practices. The goal of the program is for farmers and ranchers to conduct projects to solve challenges and problems they face and develop information on what works and doesn’t work so that others facing those same problems can benefit from the results of the funded project. Any farmers or ranchers and farmer/rancher organizations throughout the Southern region are eligible to apply, and the maximum funding amount for individual farmers/ranchers is $15,000 and $20,000 for farmer/rancher organizations. Projects may be funded for up to two years.

The deadline for Producer Grants is November 15, 2019.

For a list of S-SARE grants funded in your region, check out these examples in the SARE database!

Western SARE

W-SARE has announced a call for proposals for the 2020 Professional Development Grants Program, Farmer/Rancher Grants Program, Professional + Producer Grants Program, and Research to Grass Roots Grants Program.

The Professional Development Grants Program focuses on training agricultural professionals to help them spread knowledge about sustainable agriculture concepts and practices. Projects should increase agricultural professionals’ sustainable agriculture knowledge, skills and action, and they should have outreach plans demonstrating delivery of knowledge. Grants are limited to $75,000 and can run for up to three years, with the final year focusing on project evaluation.

The deadline for the 2020 Professional Development Grants is November 13, 2019.

The Farmer/Rancher Grants Program supports agricultural producers working with a technical advisor(s) in implementing projects addressing identified needs in sustainable agriculture and conducting outreach on the topic. Producers and technical advisor(s) must integrate research and education to conduct on-site/on-farm experiments to improve production, marketing, and the environment. Both research and education components must be distinct elements of the proposal. The goal of this program is to find ways to protect the environment, enhance farm income, and improve the quality of life for farming/ranching families, communities, and society as a whole. Farmer/Rancher projects are limited to $20,000 for one producer or to $25,000 for three or more producers, for up to three years.

The deadline for Farmer/Rancher Grants Program is November 11, 2019.

The Professional + Producer Grants Program supports one agricultural professional and five producers to conduct both research and education on a sustainable agriculture topic. Projects must integrate research and outreach aiming to advance environmental, economic, and social goals of sustainable agriculture, and use innovative outreach to disseminate new knowledge to producers and other agricultural stakeholders. The program is intended to benefit producers, increase the preservation of the natural and social resources upon which agriculture relies, and increase knowledge to be shared with other producers. Projects may last from one up to three years and be funded for up to $50,000.

The deadline for Professional + Producer Grants Program is November 13, 2019.

The Research to Grass Roots Grants Program support agricultural professionals, farmers, ranchers and others in the Western Region increase their understanding and proficiency in sustainable agriculture. These projects will take the research results from previously funded SARE projects and bring those results into the field through education to agricultural professionals and producers. Funding is capped at $75,000 per project.

The deadline for Research to Grass Roots Grants Program is November 20, 2019.

For a list of W-SARE grants funded in your region, check out these examples or search the SARE database!

SARE Application Process

SARE proposals must be submitted online via this portal. Once submitted, proposals are reviewed by a Technical Review Panel against the criteria outlined in the grant’s open call and in comparison with other submitted grant proposals. The SARE Administrative Council for the region – typically, a board of agricultural producers, scientists, educators and business leaders – then makes the final selections of projects to fund. The Council typically selects proposals diverse in subject matter and geography, and that demonstrate outcomes that farmers and ranchers in the region can successfully adopt.

SARE publishes a summary of funded projects by state. The portfolio summary breaks down funding by SARE project type and total funding per state since 1988, and the grant lists includes every grant awarded in the state by title.

Find out more about SARE projects in your state here.

SARE in Appropriations

SARE was one of NSAC’s first legislative accomplishments over 30 years ago and remains one of our coalition’s top funding priorities to this day. For Fiscal Year 2020, NSAC will be urging appropriators to increase funding for SARE grants to $45 million.

After more than 30 years of proven on-the-ground results, the program has yet to reach its authorized funding amount of $60 million. SARE research results are disseminated to farmers and adopted in their fields at a much faster pace than other federal programs. This funding would allow SARE’s farmer driven research to keep pace with the growing challenges related to the state of the rural economy, soil health, and competitiveness of American producers. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) remains a supporter of SARE and continues to advocate for growing the program’s research and funding capacity.


Categories: Grants and Programs, Research, Education & Extension


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