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Upcoming Deadlines for Federal Farm and Food Programs

May 20, 2015

With seeds in the soil and summer approaching, deadlines for federal farm and food grant programs are coming up as quickly as your seedlings! For farmers, ranchers, and groups who work with producers, the next few months are critical to ensure timely and successful completion of applications, so read on!

NSAC has compiled a list of upcoming deadlines for federal food and farm grant applications and grant assistance workshops. If you farm or work with farmers, consult the list below and share it with those you know.

Please be sure to check out our Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm and Food Programs for more information on how to apply and examples of the types of projects and activities funded through each program in more detail.

Specific programs are listed below in order of deadline immediacy.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – March 31 through June 10

The AFRI program provides research grants to academic and NGO research institutions to conduct research, education, and extension activities on a range of issues facing agricultural producers. Topics included in this year’s call for proposals include support for developing new and improved crop varieties,  local and regional food systems, farm-generated ecological services, and the profitability of the next generation of small and medium-sized farm owners and operators. Program deadlines vary by subtopic area; see the RFA for a full listing of the subprograms and their specific deadlines. Proposals must be submitted through Grants.gov.

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Grants – Deadlines Vary, Starting with June 1

Each year, the four SARE regions invite applicants to submit proposals for the various grant opportunities that are offered. The application process always begins with the release of Calls for Proposals (CFP). Applicants are strongly encouraged to download and read the Call for Proposals before applying for a grant. The CFP contains all of the rules and guidelines and everything you may need to complete the application process and successfully submit your project.

There are no currently open grant application deadlines for North Central SARE, but each of the other regions have open calls at the moment:

Regional Centers for Food Safety Training Infrastructure – June 29 

On May 18, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) released a request for applications (RFA) to establish Regional Centers for food safety training, education, outreach, extension, and technical assistance. These centers will work in tandem with the yet-to-be-named National Coordination Center as part of a joint effort between NIFA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to carry out the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) provision authorizing a new competitive grants program to fund projects targeted toward helping small and mid-sized family farms and small local and regional food enterprises (processors and wholesalers) come into compliance with new FSMA requirements.

Applications for the Southern and Western Regional Centers must be submitted by June 29 via Grants.gov. Applications for the Northeastern and North Central Regional Centers will not go through NIFA, but instead will go through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is coordinating with USDA on the funding and administration of the program. FDA has yet to announce its deadlines, though we expect them to do so in the coming weeks.

Value-Added Producer Grants – July 2

The Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program provides competitively awarded grants to individual independent agricultural producers, groups of independent producers, producer-controlled entities, organizations representing agricultural producers, and farmer or rancher cooperatives to create or develop value-added producer-owned businesses. These grants may be used to fund business and marketing plans and feasibility studies or to acquire working capital to operate a value-added business venture or alliance. On May 8th , the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the availability of $30 million in funding through the competitive VAPG Program. The deadline to submit paper applications is July 7. Electronic applications submitted through Grants.gov are due July 2.

Regional Conservation Partnership Program Proposals – July 8

Through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), state agencies, and non-governmental organizations work together to provide financial and technical assistance to farmers to install conservation activities to tackle priority natural resource concerns in a state or region. NRCS administers this program and thus partner entities submit project proposals to NRCS. As its name implies, RCPP supports partnerships between farm and conservation organizations working with state and federal agencies to deliver federal farm bill conservation assistance to farmers to help tackle specific natural resource and environmental concerns in a specific state or region.

Partners can develop and submit pre-proposals until July 8. NRCS will select pre-proposals invited to submit full proposals by September 4. Full proposals are due by November 10, with NRCS making final selections by January 2016.

Farmers apply to participate in a project only after a project has been awarded and announced, so not until the beginning of 2016 at the earliest.

Specialty Crop Block Grant Program – July 8

The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program provides grants on an annual basis to assist state departments of agriculture in enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops. Often, states partner with nonprofit organizations, producer groups, and colleges and universities to develop their application and administer the program. States can use the block grants to supplement state-run specialty crop programs and/or make grants available for projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. Applications from state departments of agriculture for the SCBG program must be submitted electronically through Grants.gov by 11:59 p.m. EST, July 8, 2015.

Groups within a state apply for funding only after the state plan has been approved by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. A listing of state contacts and application due dates for state-run specialty crop block grants can be found here.

Socially Disadvantaged Groups Grants – July 14

The Socially Disadvantaged Groups Grants provide funding for rural cooperative development centers, individual cooperatives, and groups of cooperatives that serve socially disadvantaged groups (groups that have been subjected to racial, ethnic, or gender prejudice) and whose governing boards have a majority of representatives of socially disadvantaged groups.  The program, run by USDA’s Rural Business and Cooperative Service, is a subset of the Rural Cooperative Grant Program.

For 2015, $3 million is available, with a maximum grant size of $175,000 and a grant term of one year.  Electronic applications are due by July 14 and paper copy applications must be postmarked by July 20.

Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program – July 31

Through the Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP), NRCS and partner entities run multi-year projects to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands and wildlife habitat. WREP partners are required to contribute financial and in-kind match for assistance. These partners work directly with eligible landowners interested in enrolling their agricultural land into conservation wetland easements.

On June 22, the USDA announced the availability of $17.5 million for wetland restoration partnerships with state and local governments, Indian tribes, and non-profit organizations in fiscal year 2015. Proposals must be submitted to NRCS state offices by July 31, 2015. In addition to general WREP funding, a portion of the $17.5 million will be available through the Mississippi River Basin Initiative.

Organic Certification Cost Share Programs – Reimbursement On-going

USDA offers farmers two programs to help defray a portion of the annual costs associated with organic certification: the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP) and the Agricultural Management Assistance Organic Certification Cost Share Program (AMA). Both programs are noncompetitive financial assistance programs that help defray the costs of organic certification and are administered by the National Organic Program (NOP). NOCCSP is available nationally, while AMA is available only in certain states in the northeast and west.

On May 14, the USDA announced the availability of approximately $11.9 million in funding for organic certification cost-share assistance for organic producers and handlers through state departments of agriculture. Payments for certification-related expenses incurred from October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015 can reimburse up to 75 percent of an individual producer’s or handler’s certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 per farm certification.

Biomass Crop Assistance Program – Payments On-going

BCAP was established by the 2008 Farm Bill as a new Title IX energy program, and the 2014 Farm Bill provides $25 million per year for BCAP. USDA may award between 50 and 90 percent of annual BCAP funding to producers to establish and produce perennial biomass, such as native grasses and forbs. The Farm Bill authorizes USDA to spend between 10 and 50 percent of BCAP funding to help producers connect with bioenergy facilities through the collection, harvest, storage and transportation of biomass residues (payments for these activities are referred to collectively as “matching payments”).

On June 1, the USDA announced the availability of $19.5 million for the production of energy crops and the harvest and delivery of forest or agricultural residues to qualifying energy facilities. Farmers can apply for funding through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). To see if your county is covered by a BCAP project, view the current project list. If you are located in a BCAP project area, you may apply to the program through your local FSA office.


For more information on program specifics and eligibility, consult NSAC’s Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm and Food Programs.

Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment, Grants and Programs, Local & Regional Food Systems, Organic, Research, Education & Extension, Rural Development

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