Being new to farming can come with challenges and many beginning farmers find themselves having higher debt-to-asset ratios and having to rely on off-farm income than more established farmers. They also have trouble gaining access to land, capital, and markets and are less likely to receive government support. This has been exacerbated by the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), created over a decade ago, supports training the next generation of farmers. BFRDP is a federal grant program administered by the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The program provides grants to organizations working with beginning farmers and ranchers to help improve success in their farming operations. BFRDP is pivotal to reducing traditional barriers to entry by funding new farmer training programs and projects across the country.
Last week, USDA announced the availability of $19 million for the BFRDP in the fiscal year (FY) 2022 Request for Application (RFA). Applicants have until May 19, 2022, to apply for this year’s round of grants.
Priority funding is given to nonprofit organizations, community-based organizations (CBOs), and school-based agricultural educational organizations that have experience educating and training beginning farmers. Supported programs include workshops, educational teams, training, educational outreach curricula, and technical assistance programs to assist beginning farmers and ranchers with entering, establishing, building, and managing successful farm and ranch enterprises.
BFRDP grants may support projects that address a variety of topics including livestock and crop farming practices; land transfer strategies; business, financial, and risk management training; curriculum development; mentoring and apprenticeships; agricultural rehabilitation and vocational training for veterans; and farm safety. A portion of BFRDP funding is set aside to specifically support projects serving historically underserved and veteran farmers.
BFRDP grants are structured into three types:
- Standard Grants,
- Educational Team Grants, and
- Curriculum and Training Clearinghouse Grants
Standard BFRDP projects support new and established local and regional training, education, outreach, and technical assistance initiatives for beginning farmers and ranchers, and the maximum award is limited to $250,000 per year, for up to three years.
Educational Enhancement Team grants are expected to assemble a team of experts to support the development of curricula and conduct educational programs and workshops, provide training and technical assistance initiatives, or support trainers and service providers that work with beginning farmers or ranchers. These grants are limited to $250,000 per year, for up to three years.
The Curriculum and Training Clearinghouse grants make available educational curricula and training materials and programs, which may include online courses, through collaboration and coordination with other BFRDP programs. These grants are aimed at maintaining and enhancing an online library for education, training, mentoring, and outreach materials produced from projects funded through the BFRDP program and through other sources. It will also maintain a national “one-stop” source of beginning farmer and rancher education that includes training materials and information that can be accessed online, as well as enhancing outcome-based reporting. These grants are also limited to $250,000 per year, for up to three years.
In the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress created an umbrella program – the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) program – to streamline and coordinate USDA resources for beginning and other underserved farmers. In creating FOTO, Congress provided permanent funding for BFRDP, but in doing so, cut annual program funding over a couple of years post the Farm Bill. However, for FY 2022 the program has $20 million in mandated funding which will increase to $25 million in FY 2023.
BFRDP has a match requirement and awardees must provide a 25 percent match from non-federal sources to the funds provided by the grant. However, NIFA may waive the matching funds requirement if it determines the project will effectively reach an underserved area or population.
How to Apply
To apply, organizations must submit an electronic application through Grants.gov after carefully reviewing the FY 2022 Request for Application (RFA). The deadline to complete and submit applications is May 19, 2022.
For more on BFRDP, visit NSAC’s Grassroots Guide. — By the National Sustainable Agricultural Coalition