Funding Opportunities for Local Food Producers
Unless you come into farming with a considerable amount of available capital, you will probably have to apply for loans or grants to start, expand or support your business.
- Practical Farmers of Iowa offers a comprehensive Beginning Farmers Resource Guide to Financing. Find the different loan options available federally or in Iowa, divided by what you are looking to finance (business loan, purchasing farmland, purchasing a rural residence with an acreage, to expand, for land stewardship costs), as well as supporting organizations and contacts.
- View a PowerPoint presentation titled “Financing Food Enterprises and Cooperative Businesses,” presented online as part of the USDA’s Rural Development Webinar Series in September 2016 by James Barham and Margaret Bau, USDA Rural Development, Rural Business-Cooperative Service.
- Small Farm Funding Resources is a video that helps you navigate USDA’s online guide for small farm funding resources. Most federal financial assistance programs to start a farm or ranch are loans, not grants. However, there are a number of grant programs for specific projects once you are farming.
- Farm Loan Programs is an online guide to the different direct and guaranteed loan programs available through the Farm Service Agency (FSA) (find a simplified chart p. 12-13).
- Where Can I Find Agricultural Funding Resources? is compiled by USDA’s Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, and succinctly gathers information on different funding streams available for farmers.
- Locate your local FSA county office at this link.
- The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has an online overview of farm bill programs and grants that support farmers (farmer eligibility is delineated in the right hand column).
1. Define the need or problem you are addressing
Collaborate with appropriate partners to plan and develop your idea. Give yourself plenty of time to build your project team and develop your proposal; up to a year or even longer may be needed to create a strong project proposal.
2. Determine the best way to solve the problem.
Solution = Project Idea. What evidence is there to support your solution? Why will it work?
3. Find the right source to fund your proposal.
Here are some of USDA’s Federal grant programs or financing opportunities:
- Farm Service Agency FSA (beginning farmer and microloan programs)
- Natural Resources Conservation Service NRCS (consultation and cost-share assistance to develop a farm system plan that conserves or enhances your natural resources)
- Rural Development Program (farm energy, or adding services of processing to an existing farm)
- National Institute of Food and Agriculture NIFA (on-farm research)
- Agricultural Marketing Service AMS (local food marketing, enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops)
- Veterans have access to additional resources: check out the Farmer Veteran Coalition website for a comprehensive resource guide (training opportunities to business plans to supporting organizations) and sponsorship opportunities.
4. Be professional as a grant-seeker!
Follow the grant requirements to the letter. Funders will disqualify applicants who do not follow their instructions for word/length requirements, budget forms, letters of recommendation, etc. Write clearly, check spelling and grammar, ask a colleague (or three) to review the proposal before you submit it. Plan to submit your proposal several days (better yet, a few weeks) before the deadline, to give yourself plenty of time to review and avoid last-minute online submission glitches. If your proposal is not funded, be sure to ask for reviewer feedback so you can strengthen your proposal for the next submission. Some funders will even recommend that you submit your idea for their next funding round, after reviewer comments have been addressed.
Things you should do before approaching your loan officer:
- do your market research
- have a business plan: find information here – Business Planning
Find out more about local available financial programs by visiting:
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