The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers many programs to help farmers in ranchers with their operation. However, with so many different programs it may be difficult to find the right one for your needs. To help, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition announced the publication of its brand new, fully updated Growing Opportunity: A Guide to USDA Sustainable Farming Programs. This free, comprehensive, practical guide is for farmers and ranchers who want to better understand which key federal programs offered by the USDA can help them meet their needs and support their diversified, sustainable farming operations.
The USDA is partnering with farmer-serving organizations like the NSAC and its members to better reach and serve an increasingly diverse farmer and rancher constituency for USDA programs. The NSAC originally partnered with the USDA in 2017 to produce the first edition of this guide to USDA programs for farmers and ranchers. This new edition has been updated to reflect program changes made since the 2018 Farm Bill. The guide distills technical programs in a way that is accessible, serving as a valuable resource for farmers as they look for opportunities and financing to grow their farms and businesses and help build a more sustainable farming system.
The new guide is a resource for current farmers or would-be farmers seeking to:
- access capital, land, infrastructure, or technical assistance to begin or expand an operation;
- pursue new markets and sell fresh or value-added products directly to consumers, wholesalers, restaurants, schools, and food hubs; and/or
- consider diversification options, comprehensive conservation systems, and organic farming practices.
The guide includes detailed and concise program summaries, reference links, and key resources related to dozens of USDA programs that are designed to help farmers and ranchers start, maintain, and grow successful operations. These programs include:
- Direct and Guaranteed Farm Operating and Ownership Loans; Microloans; Down Payment Loan Program
- Land Contract Guarantee Program
- Farm Storage Facility Loans (FSFL)
- Conservation Reserve Program — Transition Incentives Program (CRP-TIP) and Field Border Buffer Initiative
- Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP)
- Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP)
- Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Audits
- Whole-Farm Revenue Protection Program (WFRP)
- Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) – Beginning Farmers; FCIC Organic
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP); EQIP Organic Initiative; EQIP High Tunnel System Initiative
- Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
- Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG)
- Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE)
In the guide, programs are broken down by USDA agency and labeled by the type of service offered such as loans, rental payments, insurance, cost-share, auditing services, technical and financial assistance, and grant programs. The guide includes a matrix to help farmers easily match up their interests, such as value-added programs or cover crops, to programs that might help them, as well as a matrix highlighting programs with prioritized funding for beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, and military veterans.