Financing Your Farm Business

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Grant Opportunities for Farmers

Even if deadlines on these lists are outdated, they make great starting points for a grants search for your farm. Check websites of individual agencies and organizations for recent information. Read below for more details about grants for farmers.

List compiled by the Small Farms Program (Word document)

The following words of wisdom are from the Guide to Starting a Farm Business in NYS by Monika Roth and Jacob Schuelke (available by contacting Monika Roth at 607-272-2292 or
“An increasing number of grant opportunities are available for farmers to apply for – most are from federal or state programs with specific objectives. Grants fall into three general categories: 1-grants for business planning, 2-grants for on-farm research and demonstration projects mostly production-oriented though some include marketing demonstration projects; and 3-grants for farm energy conservation, alternative energy, environmental protection/conservation and waste handling.

Grants are never (rarely) available to start your farm and should not be counted upon to grow your business. Grants in consort with loans and other government programs may be a viable business strategy as long as there is a contingency plan in case the grant doesn’t come through.

Grants are very competitive (many applications) so you should only apply if you feel you have a project that clearly meets the grantors’ objectives. It also takes significant time and effort to write a winning grant proposal, so do not think you can complete it in a day or two.

Always find out what kinds of projects have been funded in the past to make sure your project is in line with what is being funded. And once you submit a grant, do not expect to hear back about whether your project was funded for at least 6 months. If funded, it may also take time to finalize the contract and you cannot spend money and get reimbursement before you have a signed contract.

Finally, grants require reporting of results to the funder. You must keep records and write up your results as well as provide financial records. Grants are considered income for tax purposes.”

Guide to Funding and Grant Programs

This is an updated “quick-guide” to federal programs and grants for farmers, ranchers, food entrepreneurs, and the researchers, educators and community groups who serve them.  This chart is a one-stop shop for links to the relevant USDA program websites (where they exist), brief descriptions of programs, and important dates and deadlines.

Guide to Funding Opps for Local Food Projects

Check out the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s 2010 Guide to USDA Funding for Local and Regional Food Systems, which identifies and explains key programs that can help community based organizations and others that are working to build infrastructure, provide training to farmers, research new marketing opportunities, and otherwise working to strengthen regional food systems.

Financing Small-scale and Part-time Farms

Penn State University Cooperative Extension

This publication explains why many small-scale farms succeed in Pennsylvania and examines the steps a farmer should take to secure a loan, as well as the major lenders that serve the small-scale agricultural sector. Publication is in PDF format.

NY State Farm Service Agency

Farm Service Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture

FSA offers direct and guaranteed farm ownership and operating loans to farmers who are temporarily unable to obtain private, commercial credit. Often, FSA borrowers are beginning farmers who cannot qualify for conventional loans because they have insufficient financial resources. The Agency also helps established farmers who have suffered financial setbacks from natural disasters, or whose resources are too limited to maintain profitable farming operations.

FSA Beginning Farmer/Rancher Loan Program

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) provides direct and guaranteed loans to beginning farmers and ranchers who are unable to obtain financing from commercial credit sources. Each fiscal year, the Agency targets a portion of its direct and guaranteed farm ownership (FO) and operating loan (OL) funds to beginning farmers and ranchers.

Loans for Socially Disadvantaged Persons Factsheet

Farm Service Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture

The FSA can make and guarantee loans to socially disadvantaged applicants to buy and operate family-size farms and ranches. Funds specifically for these loans are reserved each year. Non-reserved funds can also be utilized.

A socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher is one of a group whose members have been subjected to racial, ethnic, or gender prejudice because of their identity as members of the group without regard to their individual qualities. For purposes of this program, socially disadvantaged groups are women, African Americans, American Indians, Alaskan natives, Hispanics, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders.

Your First Farm Loan

Dennis Kauppila, Center for Sustainable Agriculture, University of Vermont,

Describes types of loans, getting approval for your loan, business plans, the 5 Cs of credit, what lenders look for, and what to do if your loan is denied. Publication is in PDF

4 pages. Single copies free; multiple copies may require S&H fee. To order,

UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture
Agricultural Engineering Bldg.
63 Carrigan Dr.
Burlington, VT 05405
Phone: (802) 656-5459

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