How To Apply Government Grants for Organic Farms – Starting a farm extends beyond tilling land and building barns. There are financial aspects outside the traditional concerns of farming that need to be addressed for successful business operations. The federal government, especially the US Department of Agriculture or USDA provides grants and many other financial assistance for farmers to help them begin their agriculture journey. One such important area of farming that most government and private organizations focus on is organic farming. This guide will throw light on government grants for organic farms and other private grants that are available at your disposal.
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Highlights of this Post
What Are The Eligibility Criteria To Qualify For Government Grants For Organic Farms?
Let’s take a look at the following eligibility criteria to qualify for government grants for organic farms.
- Demonstrate a strong commitment and interest in a career in organic agriculture
- Applicants should be a citizen of the United States or permanent residents and have income within a particular threshold
- Must not be a delinquent on government debt
- Must prove you are operating or have an existing business based in the United States of America. Your farm or ranch should be situated in the United States.
- Must agree to use the grant award for a particular purpose mentioned by the program and demonstrate a robust need for grant funding
- All the taxes must be correct and in good standing and the organic farming business must not have any outstanding tax liens or legal judgments unless exempt.
- Applicants must prove they are currently operating an active organic farm or ranch.
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What Are The Documents Required To Apply For Government Grants For Organic Farms?
The specific documentation that you need to submit may vary depending on the program you are applying to, the organization providing you the grant and other factors. Following are the commonly requested official documents to apply for organic grants.
- Identity documents like state ID, passport, Social Security card
- Detailed personal financial information such as tax return forms, bank statements, recent pay stubs
- Balance sheet, profit and loss statement and cash flow statement.
- Tax ID or EIN IRS letter for reference
- Details of accounts payable and receivable
- Most recent business tax return
- Business certificate along with permits, licenses, legal business documents, articles of incorporation etc.
- Complete business plan for instance a detailed description of the type of business you are running, the structure, the service or products, the marketing plan, business management and financial projections.
- A detailed budget showing how you are planning to use the grant for your organic farms and ranches.
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What Are The Available Government Grants For Organic Farms?
Following is the list of resources and programs that can be helpful for organic producers or those who are transitioning to organic farming.
There are conventional farmers who want to switch to organic farming and can receive grants from the USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program. If you are a farmer and have your own organic certification you are also eligible for receiving farm equipment grants.
The grants can be used for cultivation of organic arable land and can also be used for conservation measures that include nutrient management and crop rotation. It is also identified that the farm producers can receive an amount of $20,000 each year and it can go up to $80,000 in the span of six years.
The farmers that are interested in applying for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program need to contact their local USDA service center. You can also check the USDA website to know about the application deadlines and other general information. But remember the organic farmers need to meet the certification standards as stated by the USDA to qualify for the program.
The USDA is continuously trying to help out the organic farms by sharing the right information. The programs help out the organic farmers who are switching to organic farming from conventional farming.
The program also helps those organic farmers who are established and are planning to enhance and improve their farms. USDA’s NIFA funds for organic agriculture research through Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and the Organic Transitions (ORG) programs.
When you want to be officially certified as an organic farmer before founding your company, you have the opportunity to reimburse the cost using the USDA’s Organic Cost Share Program. It is said and stated on their website by the Agricultural Marketing Service that the cost of organic certification can be prohibitive for some people.
Reimbursing certification related expenses will help the cost of regulation and also make certification more affordable as recognized by the USDA. The farmers that are undergoing certification must be eligible for the program and need to submit reimbursement applications to the government agency or state agriculture ministries. First of all the government processes the application and then it is reimbursed by the USDA that is 75% of the certification cost and it can go up to $750.
Beginning organic farmers can benefit from government grant opportunities that are not specifically designed for organic farmers but include varied types of farmers. One such program is the Beginning Farmer And Rancher Development Program by USDA.
The program addresses the increasing age of farmers which is 57 years according to reports of USDA. To help the less experienced farmers and organic farmers to earn a living this program offers grant opportunities especially those who have raised livestock or farm for 10 years or more.
The grants are provided to eligible states, local and tribal government agencies including universities and community organizations so that they can give the funds to eligible agricultural producers and farmers.
Agricultural producers including organic farmers can participate in the Conservation Stewardship Program for maintaining and improving their existing conservation system and for adopting additional conservation activities to address the priority resource concern. Eligible participants get payments from the Conservation Stewardship Program for conservation performance so the higher the performance the higher will be your payment.
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Organic farmers can turn to the USDA Farm Service Agency if they are unable to secure financial assistance from other sources. FSA provides direct loans for the purpose of farm ownership that range up to $600,000 and operating grants up to $400,000.
Beginner organic farmers who need one to buy a farm can select a joint financing arrangement where the FSA lends up to 50% of the amount and the commercial lender provides 50% or more. FCC microloans provide assistance of up to $50,000 that are available to beginner farmers and help them to cover operating and startup costs.
FSA microloans are a good option for you as they have less stringent eligibility criteria and less paperwork. Family farm and ranch owners or operators who have been in business for less than 10 years can apply.
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A critical challenge to start up and operate a farm is to find the right people to help your farm run and operate seamlessly.
While hiring laborers you also have to make arrangements for their housing. The USDA Rural Development Office provides grant opportunities to purchase, build, renovate as well and repair housing for laborers through the Farm Labor Housing Grant And Loan Program.
Eligible candidates include farm associations, individual farmers, government offices, family farm corporations, farm worker associations, nonprofits and American Indian tribes. The grants can help you pay for housing beyond the basic living quarters for instance childcare centers.
The Future Organic Farmers in California provides scholarship awards of up to $5000 to vocational and college students who are making their careers in organic farming. As more farmers continue to pursue organic farming the more will be increased in organic acreage and more communities can feed on organic food.
This scholarship enables young students to pursue organic farming and gives them the confidence to succeed. The grant is designed to support the higher education of students and vocational students so that they can pursue certificates or degrees in organic agriculture and cover the educational and tuition expenses.
The Value Added Producer Grant is a popular program by the USDA Rural Development that extends support for the development of new products for instance crops processed on the farm, renewable energy, food and the cost of bringing the products into the market.
The program provides funding up to $18.00 million and gives grants up to $75,000 for business planning and feasibility studies and $250,000 for working capital so that farmers can launch value-added initiatives. Organic farmers who receive the grant have to submit performance reports and financial reports regularly to USDA Rural Development.
The program covers the following: independent producers, agricultural producer, ranchers, farmer cooperatives, majority control producer-based business ventures etc. Beginning farms and family-scale operations are given priority by this grant program. Contact your local Rural Development Office to learn about applying for the program.
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The Renewable Energy System And Energy Improvement Grants are a part of the Rural Energy For America Program and assist rural small business and agricultural producers including organic producers to purchase and install energy-efficient systems or make necessary energy efficiency improvements in their farms or ranches.
If your organic farm project includes purchasing, installing or improving systems like wind generation, hydropower, solar generator, lighting, insulation, doors and windows, cooling or refrigeration units you can apply for this program and seek assistance in a range between $2500 to $1 million for renewable energy system into your farming and $1500 to $500,000 for energy efficiency project. To qualify organic businesses and agricultural producers must be located in rural regions having a population of less than $50,000.
A program of the USDA called Sustainable Agriculture Research And Education (SARE) provides grant funding to eligible farmers including organic farmers so that they can test new and innovative ideas through farm demonstrations, field trials, effective strategies and marketing initiatives.
Your project must focus on agriculture innovation that boosts stewardship of air, land water, promotes profitability, and improves the quality of life for ranchers, farmers or communities.
The goal of the program is to ensure the development of sustainable practices for farmers. This program is divided into four regions: North Central, Northeast, South and West. Every region has its own grant and application procedure. Organic farmers and ranchers can apply for the grants in their respective regions.
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Aggie bonds are a state and federal partnership that enables private lenders to earn state or federal tax-exempt interest on loans that they provide to beginning farmers including organic farmers. They provide first-time farmers interest rates that range between 1% to 3% and lower than other commercial farm loans.
Organic farmers can use the funding to purchase farmland, building, equipment and livestock. These are loans that are currently available in 17 states throughout the United States of America. In other states, similar types of assistance and financial support are provided through other programs.
State And Extension Grants
Grant funding for organic farming is provided in collaboration with state government and local cooperative extension offices.
For instance in the state of Illinois Illinois Department of Agriculture provides Illinois’ AgriFirst Program that offers funding to farmers. With the growth of organic farming, the program targets organic farmers and helps them to promote economic development in the state.
Even though specific programs may vary, a lot of Cooperative Extension programs focus on organic farming today and have gained popularity among low-income backyard farmers. The State University of North Carolina launched a New Mountain Organic Research and Extension Unit in 2010 to provide assistance to organic farmers.
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Private Sector Support
State and regional organic farming associations and nonprofit organizations provide funding opportunities and assistance programs for transitioning and new organic farmers. Following are the places where you can check if you are not eligible for government grants for organic farmers.
Organic Farmers Association is a national organization that is led by certified organic producers. Joining the organization gives transitioning as well as beginning organic farmers assistance and a voice right away on critical issues that matter the most to them.
The official website of the association lists the member organic farm organization that provides useful resources and assistance programs for needy organic farmers living in different states and cities of the country.
The Organic Farming Research Foundation offers assistance up to $15,000 annually for research projects that are related to organic farming or ranching.
The organization funds a lot of topics apart from organic farming for instance organic livestock production, exploring financial problems faced by small and medium-sized ranches and farms, finding unique solutions to the existing organic production problems etc.
You need to make sure your proposal includes working with the organic farm or ranch and describe how your project fosters improvement, adoption and expansion of the organic farming system. Most of the funds are used for the study of ways that help organic farmers to get rid of challenges like disease and insects that harm crops.
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Rodale Institute is a sponsoring organization of the popular Organic Farmers Association that trains and educates transitioning new farmers through their organic farming certificate program and is offered to eligible farmers in partnership with the university.
Besides a certificate, you also can get a farmer training program for military veterans and free online transition to organic courses. The institution researches organic cultural methods and shares its data and findings with the farmers. You can find a comprehensive list of farm funding opportunities for organic farmers on the official website of Rodale Institute.
The organization Farmers Advocating For Organic started with the 2002 Farm Bill that included an exemption for organic producers from contributing to national programs such as ‘Got Milk’. The grant program is one of the largest farmer-funded grant programs in America that focuses solely on organic farming.
The grants are awarded for education, research and advocacy projects to protect and promote the organic industry and help organic farmers. A one- time grant award in between $5000 and $50,000 is provided to qualified candidates.
The fund helps organic farmers situated throughout the United States of America to address the long-term needs of the organic marketplace. The program is funded by the Organic Valley farmers to invest in projects that affect the livelihoods of organic farmers throughout the country.
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The Cliff Family Foundation was founded in 2006 and assists small to midsize organizations that strengthen the food system, grow organic farming, and agricultural seeds and create viable opportunities for farmers including enhancing the community health outcomes and safeguarding the natural and environmental resources.
The grants are awarded to nonprofit organizations with measurable goals and objectives. The program offers grants to eligible candidates that range up to $7000.
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As more consumers are interested in organic farming in the United States of America a lot of small business owners today have opportunities to capitalize. Organic farming provides a niche that often large firms cannot fill. There is a wealth of assistance in the form of grants available that help farmers launch into the organic farming business. Organic farming like any business comes with a long list of expenses and unique challenges when beginning. A lot of farmers turn to government grants or loans to start up a farm. While loans come with repayment obligations along with interest, grants on the other hand are free monetary assistance and do not require any repayment. Even though applicants have to compete to get the grant funding they help farmers in the initial stages and reduce their financial burden.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any grants for organic farming?
Yes there are grants for Organic Farming. The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) offers grants that are up to $20,000 on projects. But it is seen that most of the projects take a longer duration for completion.
Can I get some help to start organic farming?
If you are new to organic farming you can try out the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. However, the program is available only for those people who have farmed or raised livestock for less than 10 years.
Am I eligible for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program?
To be eligible for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program you need to own an organic certification. If you own an organic certification you can receive farm equipment grants and also other types of grants to improve your farm.