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Farmer/Rancher Funding Opportunity

By Rob Sirrine

As a Michigan State University Extension educator I am often asked about different funding opportunities that may be available for farmers and value added food producers. While there aren’t many opportunities, there are a few specifically designed for farmers and agricultural producers. One such grant is the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Farmer and Rancher Grant.

Those eligible for funding under the NCR SARE Farmer Rancher grant program include farmers and ranchers who are interested in conducting research, demonstration and/or education on their farms. Most projects that are funded through this program seek to investigate solutions to a particular on-farm problem or issue or to improve the sustainability of their operation. Successful proposals generally include research that has the potential to improve profitability, protect or conserve the environment, and enhance the rural community as a whole. Projects may last up to two years and can be for individual farmers or ranchers ($7,500), two farmers or ranchers ($15,000) or a group of applicants ($22,500).

While the call for proposals is not typically released until August, it is never too early to begin preparing for a proposal. Chances of receiving a grant drastically improve with the amount of effort put forth ahead of time. If you are planning on applying, there are a few key tips that may prove worthwhile:

  • First, review the call for proposals from the previous year (in this case the 2015 call for proposals). Read the fine print. For example, the call for proposals states that funding is NOT for everyday farming expenses. Also note that the call for proposals may slightly differ from year to year; while the 2015 call for proposals may provide a general template of what you can expect, you may have to modify your proposal.
  • Second, review the 2015 proposals that were selected for funding and the annual and final reports for each of the successful proposals. This will give you an idea of what types of research, demonstration, and education projects are funded as well as reporting requirements.
  • Third, make sure that you have an effective plan for disseminating your results to the public, whether through field days, a blog, or written material for example.
  • Finally, make sure that you are aware of the deadline and have time to complete the proposal in its entirety prior to the deadline. Since you must submit a letter of support from a community member, it is best to discuss the project with them well in advance. Michigan State University Extension educators, USDA NRCS, or Conservation District staff can usually provide letters of support for your proposal. You will usually need to have the proposal written and the budget complete in order to receive a solid letter of support.

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