Federal Government Grants

Federal grants are often a big undertaking, requiring detailed, time-consuming proposals. Local support for the application process is available in some cases (see the Massachusetts Farm Energy Program below). Some federal grant programs, such as NESARE and EQIP, have a more straightforward application process.

FSA Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP)
The 2014 Farm Bill authorized up to $20 million of Commodity Credit Corporation funds in a fiscal year for the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP). ELAP provides emergency assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish. It covers losses due to an eligible adverse weather or loss condition, including blizzards, disease (including cattle tick fever), water shortages and wildfires, as determined by the Secretary. ELAP covers losses that are not covered under other disaster assistance programs authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, such as the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) and the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP)Applications are typically due by November 1st after the program year in which the loss occurred

National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP):
OCCSP provides cost share assistance to producers and handlers of agricultural products who are obtaining or renewing their certification under the National Organic Program (NOP). Certified operations may receive up to 50 percent of their certification costs paid during the program year, not to exceed $500 per certification scope. Applications are typically accepted in October.

NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
Provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers in order to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits. Practices eligible for incentives include organic transitions, integrated pest management, livestock fencing, irrigation, high tunnels, and energy projects. Note that EQIP now has an advance payment option (as opposed to only paying through reimbursement) for historically underserved producers – see more information on this option here. Applications are generally accepted on a rolling basis.

NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
This program rewards farmers for protecting and enhancing natural resources on their working lands, offering incentives for resource-conserving practices such as cover cropping, rotational grazing, reduced tillage, ecological pest management, and much more. Find our new guide online here. Contact your local NRCS office for more information and to submit an application. The general application period is November through February. 

NRCS Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA)
This program provides financial and technical assistance to farms to address issues such as water management, water quality, and erosion control. Producers may construct or improve water management structures or irrigation structures; plant trees for windbreaks or to improve water quality; and mitigate risk through production diversification or resource conservation practices, including soil erosion control, integrated pest management, or transition to organic farming. More information is available online and from your local NRCS office. Applications are generally accepted on a rolling basis.

Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NESARE) Farmer Grants
A farmer-friendly grant process that supports farmers who want to test an innovative idea. Massachusetts has its own SARE page along with a history of state funded projects in summary and in detail. Application materials are typically released midsummer and due in November.

Rural Development Rural Business Development Grants (RBDG)
For rural projects that finance and facilitate development of small and emerging rural businesses. Individual farm businesses are NOT eligible to apply, but rural public entities, such as towns, and rural nonprofits often apply for projects that provide direct services to particular rural businesses. Application dates vary are based on the notice of federal funding availability.

Rural Development Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)
A family of grant programs focused on supporting energy audits and renewable energy development assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses. We recommend learning more about these grants through the Massachusetts Farm Energy Program (below), which helps farmers prepare applications for these federal funds. The application deadline is typically in late winter or early spring.

Rural Development Value-Added Producer Grants
May be used for planning activities and for working capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based renewable energy. Eligible applicants are independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, agricultural producer groups, and majority-controlled producer-based business ventures. Planning grants are available of up to $75,000 and working capital grants are available up to $250,000. Note that the USDA offers a simplified application process for working capital grants requesting less than $50,000, and unlike larger grant requests these simplified applications do not have to include an in-depth business planning and feasibility study. An excellent guide to applying for Value-Added Producer Grants is here. Recent changes: USDA Rural Development, finally, announced a number of COVID relief related changes to the open application cycle for the Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program. Those changes include extending the deadline for submitting applications, increased funding for the program and reducing the cost share match requirement to 10 percent*. The FY2021 application window is currently open now through May 4, 2021

Rural Development Farm Labor Direct Loans and Grants
This program provides grants and affordable financing to farms to develop housing for farmworkers. Funds can be used for construction, improvement, repair, and/or purchase of housing. Grants are awarded based on need and may not exceed 90% of project cost; financing is for a term of up to 33 years at a fixed rate of 1%. For more information, contact your local Rural Development office.

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