Federal program could help Montana farmers, ranchers

Grants available for startups, youth projects

MONTANA LIVING — Montana farmers and ranchers may now have access to a new round of grant funding for startup farms and ranches.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week that it is accepting grant applications for the American Rescue Plan Technical Assistance Investment Program to provide historically underserved farmers, ranchers and forest landowners technical support in accessing USDA programs and services.

montana farming, ranching federal american rescue plan grants, montana living magazine

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will provide, at a minimum, a $25 million investment of American Rescue Plan funds, with awards normally ranging from $500,000 to $3.5 million for a five-year cooperative agreement.

There is no anticipated overall maximum funding level. Applications are encouraged from partnerships and collaborations that are led by domestic nonprofit organizations and accredited public and nonprofit institutions of higher education with specialized expertise and a proven track record in working with underserved agricultural producers and/or the specific content for technical assistance. The deadline to submit applications is June 1, 2022.

Underserved communities of agricultural producers have not received the level of technical support that would benefit the launch, growth, resilience and success of their agricultural enterprises. Without meaningful technical assistance, producers are more likely to operate smaller, lower-revenue farms, have weaker credit histories and may lack clear title to their agricultural land, which increases difficulty in securing loans to own or operate their businesses and to ensure the success and resiliency of their operations.

In addition, USDA has comparatively fewer programs directed to supporting specialty crop production, which is a popular crop production choice for many producers and existing programs may not always be well-matched to the needs of small, diversified farms and ranches.

To address these inequities, technical assistance projects can provide technical support in many key areas, such as:

  • Targeted agriculture financial training.

  • Agriculture mediation access.

  • Outreach about USDA programs and services.

  • Agriculture cooperative development training and support.

  • Capacity building training and land access technical support.

  • Targeted support related to agriculture production.

  • Agriculture credit and capital access.

“This past year, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken bold and historic actions to level the playing field to ensure ALL Americans benefit from the many opportunities open to them,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “As part of USDA’s American Rescue Plan investments, we want to ensure that those who have been traditionally underserved by USDA have the same understanding and technical support needed to access USDA programs and services. This is one of many steps USDA is taking as we continue to break down barriers and be more inclusive of all USDA customers.”

As part of this program investment, technical assistance must be within a comprehensive program designed to reach defined audiences of underserved agricultural producers. Applicants are encouraged to consider and include youth-related and/or beginning farmer and rancher activities within the scope of their project, where applicable.

There will be an informational webinar about the application process. The webinar is open to interested potential applicants and will be March 24 at 4 p.m. EDT. Register for the webinar.

The Request for Applications can be reviewed on Grants.gov or the NIFA website.

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