It’s a common misconception that grants are unavailable; it just takes some time to find them. Speaking at the 2015 New York Farm Show in Syracuse, New York, Marie Anselm, director of the Madison County Agricultural Economic Development from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, provided solutions for ag producers to find grant opportunities. The New York Farm Show had daily workshops, named Ag-strong Via Diversity, all about resources available and ag opportunities hosted by Cornell University experts.

To start, Anselm noted, grants need to be repaid and there are many terms and conditions that come along with them. A grant is basically a contract with an outcome and comes from the county, state and federal agencies. Typically, it’s necessary to match funds, Anselm said. A rule of thumb would be a private equity plus grant money equals project cost. There are also reimbursement terms in grants. Whoever the grant comes from, they want to see that the person is invested in the project.

Where to look for grants

For example, the NY Department of Agriculture and Markets is a great place to start looking, Anselm said. People can then find more specific farmland protection grants if need be. According to the Department of Agriculture and Markets’ website, the Agricultural and Farmland Protection Program helps counties and municipalities plan for the future of agriculture in their communities and then funds programs to implement those plans to keep agriculture strong and farmland in production. Since 1994, the Department approved plans in 53 counties.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has funding under categories such as residential, commercial, transportation and environmental. The programs within those categories require submitted proposals. For a complete list of programs, visit http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs. Other examples are the Pennsylvania Bureau of Market Development at http://www.agriculture.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/gateway/PTARGS_6_2_24476_10297_0_43/AgWebsite/OrganizationDetail.aspx?name=Bureau-of-Market-Development&navid=34&parentnavid=0&orgid=14& or the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets at agriculture.vermont.gov.

Read more: Farming for profit: loans

Federal grants

For federal grants, a good place to look would be the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Anselm said.

“Each USDA program has its own set of rules and each participant must meet adjusted gross income limits of the current farm bill,” Anselm said.

The first is called the USDA Rural Development, which operates over 50 financial assistance programs. Under this Rural Development umbrella is the Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG), which typically has a grant range from $10,000 to $500,000. According to the RBEG website, local and state governments and authorities, Indian tribes and nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply. Visit the following link for more details about the RBEG grant. www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=kyf_grants_rd6_content.html.

Next, Anselm addressed the Valve Added Producer Grant (VAPG), which helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to value-added products. This grant’s maximum amount is $75,000 for planning grants and $200,000 for working capital grants, according to the website. Independent producers, agricultural producer groups, farmer or rancher cooperatives and producer-based business ventures are eligible for this program. For more information on this grant, visit the following link: http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/value-added-producer-grants

“The federal grants are consistent and reliable,” Anselm said. “They give priority to small, mid-sized family farms.”

The last two programs Anselm discussed were the Agricultural Marketing Service Programs (AMS) and more specifically, the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP). These are headed by the USDA.

The Agricultural Marketing Service Programs are divided into 12 categories and have subcategories for a more specific program. Anyone in the agriculture industry looking for opportunities can use this service. To find out which programs are available, visit the website: http://goo.gl/i4Ghsl.

Two types of LFPP grants are available. The LFPP Planning Grants are used in the planning stages of establishing or expanding a local and regional food business enterprise and the LFPP Implementation Grants are used to establish a new local and regional food business enterprise or to improve or expand an existing local or regional food business enterprise. Visit the following for more information: http://goo.gl/45pfWp

“Find a grant that fits your project. Don’t fit your project to a grant,” Anselm said.

Anselm offered a few questions to keep in mind while searching for and applying for grants:

  • What’s your timeline?
  • Do you have up-front equity to contribute to the project?
  • Do you have a legal business structure?
  • Are you willing to accept the grant terms?

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in the 2015 Farming’s Ag Industry Guide and has been updated for accuracy.


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