Grants for business can help finance the operations of farmers and ranchers, especially in an industry that is constantly changing and progressing. Farm grants are a form of free funding that does not require repayment.
It can take a lot of time to find and apply for grants, but the competition is fierce. The time spent on finding and applying for these grants can be difficult, but the rewards are worth it.
Here’s some information to help you start.
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Federal government farm grants
USDA offers several farm grant options. The agency website includes details about eligibility and application. Consider these federal grants for farmland:
Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Improvement Grants
These farm grants are part of the Rural Energy for America Program and help rural producers purchase renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements. The eligible grant projects are:
The wind generation
Cooling or refrigeration units.
Windows and doors
The funds can be used to buy new equipment that is energy efficient for agriculture production and processing.
The USDA offers grants ranging from $2,500 up to $1,000,000 for solar energy and energy efficiency systems, as well as $1500 to $5000 for projects involving renewable energy. USDA can provide you with up to 50% off your eligible project costs.
In order to qualify for the program, agricultural and business producers need to be in rural communities with a population of less than 50,000 people.
Farmers Market Promotion Program
Farmers Market Promotion Program grants are available to increase access in the community and availability of local and regionally-produced products. Small-business grants are available to farm and agricultural businesses, Community Supported Agriculture associations and networks, regional farmers’ markets authorities and many other groups.
There are three different types of grants for farmers, depending on the way they will use their funding:
Grants for capacity building. Projects eligible include market analyses, strategic planning and producer or market manager training, as well as consumer outreach.
Community Development Training and Technical Assistance Grants The grants may be used to assist with marketing, promotion and technical support for conformance to buyer and regulatory requirements.
Grants for Turnkey Marketing and Promotion. To qualify, the applicant must be willing to undertake a minimum three marketing and promotional activities.
The amount of funding available varies from $50,000 up to $500,000. You’ll also need to match 25% of the grant amount, just like other USDA grants.
Grant for Value-Added Producers
Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPGs) offer funding for agricultural producers to create new products, expand their marketing options, and boost income. The grants come in two forms: planning grants up to $75,000.
Farm grants can be available in all states of the U.S., and they are a good option for small and beginning farmers.
While the grant cycle for 2023 is now closed, Grants.gov or the USDA website will have information about 2024.
State Farm Grants
You may find more success searching for grant opportunities at the local, regional and state levels, as federal grants can be limited and highly competitive. State-specific grant programs will differ, but here are some options to get you started.
State Departments of Agriculture
Many states provide government grants for farm projects through the Department of Agriculture. The grants can be used for a variety of purposes, including farm management, research and development, marketing, promotion, energy efficiency and climate action.
In Missouri, for example, urban agribusinesses can apply to the Urban Agriculture Cost-Share Grant Program. The government grants are used to support urban agriculture projects, such as the development of business plans, feasibility studies and community gardens.
Local colleges, universities and community groups may offer grants to farms in your state.
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Grants
SARE, funded by National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), offers grants and educational programs in all 50 states. SARE has four distinct regions: North Central, Northeastern, Southern, and Western. Each region runs its own grant program for each state.
The grants available vary depending on the region you live in and what programs are currently running. Western SARE, for example, is offering a Farmer/Rancher Grant that was designed to assist farms in creating sustainable solutions.
The farmers will be working with advisors in order to conduct research and develop their project. Grants of up to $25,000. Or up to $29,900 if more than three farmers work together. The deadline for applications is October 25, 2023.
Check the SARE site for your area to find out what grants are offered. You can also contact the coordinator for each state who runs educational programs to find out more about available funding.
Grants for private and communal farms
Some nonprofits and private businesses offer grants to farmers. You have a few options.
Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge
This startup grant program may suit your needs if you are developing innovative solutions for the agricultural industry. Ag Innovation Grants are available to companies that create innovative solutions for farmers, ranchers, and rural communities.
Farm Bureau gives a total amount of $165,000 in awards to ten businesses. The winner receives $50,000. Semi-finalists are invited to a networking and pitching event, where they can present their business ideas in front of Farm Bureau members and investors.
Young Farmer Grant Program
In partnership with Chipotle the National Young Farmers Coalition offers grants to young farmers and ranchers through its Young Farmer Grant Program. The program awards $5,000 in grants each spring to new farmers and ranchers. They also receive a year’s membership with the National Young Farmers Coalition.
You must own or plan to open a farm, ranch or other operation in order to qualify. The applicant must be aged between 18-40 and show that the funds from this grant will enable them to achieve their career goals.
The grants offered by the Coalition are an excellent option for those farmers who belong to traditionally underserved communities. They commit to providing a minimum 50% of their grants to Blacks, Indigenous people, and others of color. This includes female-identifying farmers, transgender and non-binary farmers.
Grants to Farmer
Fund-a-Farmer is an annual grant program run by the Food Animal Concerns Trust. It offers financial assistance to farmers that improve animal welfare or expand humane farming methods. The program distributed over $250,000 in 2023 to 87 farms.
While program details may vary from one year to the next, most eligible projects focus on fencing, water system improvements, or improving farm animal housing. FACT’s website maintains an archive of previous projects.
The application period for 2024 grants will open November 1, 2023. Sign up to the FACT site for emails about new grant opportunities.
Brighter Future Fund
The Brighter Future Fund is administered by the American Farmland Trust and is intended to help fund farmers’ projects that will grow their farm. The farm grant program offers grants up to $10,000. They can be given to either an individual farmer or to a family of farmers.
Projects that are eligible fall under two main categories: professional services and equipment costs or infrastructure. Professional services could include consulting with a financial or business planner. Equipment costs might be the purchase of machinery that improves soil quality or crop health.
The American Farmland Trust site has all the information you need to apply and review eligibility requirements. Check back on the website to see updates about the 2024 cycle. The cycle for 2023 ended on July 15.
The FruitGuys Community Fund HTML0
FruitGuys Community Fund provides grants for farms of all sizes. The grants, which can reach up to $5,000, are available to working farms that have at least one-year experience and are seeking to improve their operation.
The fund website allows you to upload your application and project. Up to 20 finalist will then be invited to complete the full application. The submissions will be evaluated on their ability to improve the sustainability of farms and strengthen communities.
The project ideas can include, for example, water conservation, pest control using natural methods, increasing the number of Community Supported Agriculture Shares at no or low cost, as well as expanding existing Community Supported Agriculture Shares. In January, the grant cycle for 2024 will begin.
Veteran farm grants
The grants will help farmers and veterans who work in agriculture.
Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund
Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund grants are provided by the Farmer Veteran Coalition through their program. The annual Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund program offers assistance to veteran farmers and ranchers who are just starting out in their farming careers.
This fund is different from many others in that it does not give money directly to farmers, but instead pays vendors who provide the items identified by the farmer as being necessary for the launch of their business.
The veteran farm grant ranges from $1,000 up to $5,000. It can be used for livestock, fences, freezers and storage, tractors and feed, as well as other equipment.
In order to qualify for the program, one must have been or be serving currently in a branch of U.S. Military and receive an honorable discharge.
In addition to a completed application, you must have an active agricultural business and submit a plan of business.
Alternatives to Farm Grants
It’s possible that grants are not the best funding solution for all businesses. Here are some other funding options you may want to consider.
These products can help you cover operating expenses, purchase livestock, buy farm machinery and agricultural equipment as well as construct farm buildings. You can use these products to cover your operating costs, buy livestock, agricultural machinery, and equipment as well as build farm buildings.
SBA loans. Government-guaranteed SBA loans can be used for a variety of farming purposes. The interest rates are competitive and the repayment period is long.