Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A look ahead at 2010

I received a calendar this year for Christmas, and while the last days of the 2009 linger I am already planning ahead for grant opportunities in the coming new year.

What federal funds can we expect? Well, we know all the funding outlined in the farm bill will cover another round of the Specialty Crop Block Grant. That is a great program that specifically targets the fruit and vegetable commodities. Also the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program will be out in the spring and give markets a chance to apply directly to USDA for funding.

The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) is now open year round for all your bio-energy and energy efficiency needs. I anticipate more funding this coming year for biomass and solar as well.

For the folks in conservation there should be another round of Sustainable Agriculture, Research and Education (SARE). As well as the Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) through NRCS which is a voluntary program intended to stimulate the development of innovative conservation technologies; funds are used to award competitive grants to non-Federal governmental or non-governmental organizations.

May 2010 bring you many new resources, opportunities and….. grants!!!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thinking Outside the "Grant" Box

One piece of advice I always give to groups who are starting to search for grants is that sometimes you have to think outside the box. There may not always be a grant out there that is a perfect fit and meets all the needs of your group. In those cases you have to be open to start looking for workarounds.

One example is when there is a grant to do the project you have in mind but only schools are eligible applicants. Ask to partner with the school on the project and offer to use your groups assets and resources to enhance the outcomes of the project. (See my blog post from two weeks ago on the value in establishing partnerships for more benefits.) Granted the school will have to be the applicant and will receive the funding but, your project will get accomplished. This scenario can be replicated with; businesses, non-profits, and government agencies.

Next, lets say your group wants to do Project A, but can’t find a grant. However, there is a grant that funds a project (will call this one Project B) that you are already doing and is currently funded. Why not go ahead and apply for the grant for Project B and use the funds that you had for B to now accomplish A.

Finally, let’s say you found a grant but it requires a match (cost share) and your group does not have the cash on hand to meet this requirement. Sometimes you can use in-kind contributions to meet your match. The dollar amount of people’s time, office equipment, supplies and various other resources can be applied to your matching requirements.

As long as you are willing to be flexible and creative you can make grants work for your group.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Plug for ISDA’s Biofuels Grant Program

This week I wanted to give a shout out to the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) Biofuels Grant Program. This program is a way to increase the access to, and usage of, biofuels by Hoosier consumers and therefore move Indiana’s economy forward. E85 is an 85 percent ethanol fuel blended with 15 percent petroleum fuel.

This program awards funds (up to $20,000) for the installation of E85 refueling infrastructure at public refueling stations. The equipment purchased and installed for an E85 refueling station should be compatible with E85. Commercial refueling facilities or local units (defined as: cities, towns, counties, or townships) are eligible to apply. Those who own or operate multiple locations are allowed to apply for more than one location; however, each location needs to be on its own application and each will be scored separately.

Costs that are eligible under this grant program include: biofuels equipment, installation and site preparation for biofuels pumps only, and signage. Under the equipment category, only tank, pump, canopy and lighting expenses directly related to the dispensing of biofuels will be considered eligible costs. Eligible projects must apply commercially available technologies. Biofuels grants will not be awarded to fund research projects.

This grant has an open application period and more information about this grant along with an application can be found on ISDA’s website at:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Foundation Funding Focusing on Youth and the Environment

This week I have two random foundations that have funding available for young people (ages 5-25) trying to address issues in their local communities that focus on environmental sustainability through a service oriented type of project. These types of foundation funding are ideal for the local 4-H, FFA and Young Farmers groups to take advantage of. The applications are relatively simple to fill out, and the funding on the two I have identified ranges from $500 to $25,000 which could address both small and large projects. Think of a project your group could do in your community and apply. It’s that simple.

Starbucks Foundation-Young Social Entrepreneurs
No due date, funds range from $10,000-25,000.
More information can be found at:

Youth Service America-Global Grants Program for Young Volunteers
Due: February 22, 2010. Grants are $500 each.
More information can be found at:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Value in Establishing Partnerships

I’m going to cover two topics this week. Firstly, to inform you of funding the EPA has available to address the Great Lakes ecosystem through their Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. While restoring the Great Lakes has become a priority at the national level, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced $120 million in grants available to State pollution control agencies, interstate agencies, colleges, universities, and other public or non-profit private agencies, institutions, and organizations. Please note individuals and “for-profit” organizations are not eligible. Applications are due January 29, 2010 and more information can be found at Funding is to be used to address five major focus areas: 1. Toxic substances and areas of concern. 2. Invasive Species. 3. Nearshore Health and Nonpoint Source Pollution, including watersheds and reducing polluted runoff from urban, suburban and, agricultural sources. 4. Habitat and Wildlife Protection and Restoration 5. Accountability, Education, Monitoring, Evaluation, Communication and Partnerships.

The last word of the previous paragraph brings me to my second topic; partnerships. While this size of a project may be a bit large for a small organization to take on, it is important to remember the effectiveness of partnerships in a grant application. Many successful grant applications mention various groups they will work with to ensure their proposed projects success. Any time you can tap into more resources, staff time, expertise, technology and/or dollars you should. Use those assets to showcase the dynamics of the relationship and tie that back to the importance of achieving the end goal of your project. This will set your application apart from those with fewer resources. Partnerships demonstrate to a grant review committee that you have done a lot of homework in reaching out to others either in your area of location or area of interest. It gives the reviewers assurance that grant funds will be used on the actual project instead of using funds to gather the tools and information needed to start the process of working toward the project.

Granted one organization will have to take the lead and manage the grant, but the assistance of extra hands and additional resources should pay off in the end.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Seen those Grant Advertisements? Here's a word of Caution!

I’m sure you have seen those commercials on TV or signs along the side of the road telling you how easy it is to get a grant to buy your home, start a business or go back to school. And I always tend to caution people about those types of advertisements because.… it could be a scam. My general rule of thumb is that legitimate federal grants will be posted on federal government websites that end in .gov. If you are looking at federal grants online on websites that end in .com I would air on the side of caution and further research the grant on secure government sites.

If you are looking for foundation funding those sites could end in .org or .com and again I would further investigate the company or organizations the foundation is associated with. I would look at who the previous grantees were and research if they did receive their funds and finish their proposed project successfully to ensure they are justifiable.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Where can I find federal grants?

I get asked that question a lot.

I’m guessing you’ve probably read in the newspaper or heard on the news that some organization received a grant, and you’re wondering how they knew to apply for the grant? Where did they find it? How did they know they were even eligible?

One of the best websites I send people to is All federal grants are posted on this website. (And if you apply for federal funding online you can do that on this website as well.) From this website you can search for grants by federal agency, and from an agriculture standpoint I would strongly suggest the US Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Department of Energy. These three agencies have programs that could directly relate to the ag community through bioenergy or conservation projects. You can also search for grants by key word like education, biomass, marketing, etc. Granted these searches may bring in a much broader selection of grants, it is still a function to consider using on the website.

Grant announcements are posted just about everyday of the year, so it’s a site worth bookmarking and coming back to check on often. Or, you could select to use their RSS feeder which is a function that allows you to have grants e-mailed to you directly based on the search criteria you select; either by federal agency or category (keyword).

Once you run a search the various grants will be listed by dates, names, and federal agency. You can click on the name of the grant and be taken to that grants synopsis page. This synopsis page is a quick informational reference on the grant. Telling you when it’s due, how much is available, who is eligible to apply and a brief description of what the grant funds are to be used for. From there, if you think it sounds like the grant would be a good fit, there will be a link on the bottom of the page that will take you to the full RFP (Request for Proposals). This document will contain all the nitty gritty details about the grant, and what all is required for the application. But, the synopsis page is a great place to start and will give you a good over view of the grant program.

I have posted some other helpful websites on this blog over in the left hand column but for right now go ahead and give a try. Since the webpage ends in .gov you know it is a secure site and contains factual information. Let me know what you think. Was it easy? Do you have questions about the synopsis page and what all is listed there? I’d be happy to explain any of the terms, so feel free to post a comment.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Research for Specialty Crops

USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative is a grant opportunity for research projects that focus on plant breeding, genetics, threats from pests and diseases; including pollinators; efforts to improve production, new technology, and food safety hazards in production and processing.
USDA has $47.3 million to award projects that address the critical needs of the specialty crop industry by developing and disseminating science-based tools to address needs of specific crops. Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops; including floriculture.

Eligible Applicants include; colleges and universities, research institutions, private organizations or corporations, state agricultural experiment stations, individuals or groups consisting of 2 or more of the above mentioned. Applications are due January 14, 2010 and please note there is a matching requirement. More information can be found at

Tip: Priority is given to proposals that are multi state and communicate results to producers and the public. For your proposal think about whom you could partner with and ways to perform outreach to others.

This grant should not be confused with USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant which is available for state departments of agriculture to apply for to carry out more marketing, distribution and nutrition type grants with not-for-profits. If you have any questions regarding either of these grants please feel free to post a comment below as I would welcome discussion on this blog.

Also, always remember to check out ISDA’s website for all the latest ag related grants

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Foundations as a Funding Source

Many people who start to look for grants or financial resources tend to start with the government. And, depending on the size or the scope of your proposal that is certainly alright. But for those smaller projects, requesting smaller dollar amounts, that directly affect your surrounding area, I suggest looking at foundations as a source of funding.

Most cities and counties have community foundations with grants available to address various needs in the area. These foundations are sometimes set up with funds from local partners and contributors and want to focus their efforts on projects that will better the area. (Local resources, helping local people with local projects.) Sometimes there may be criteria for the selection of proposals in various categories such as; educating youth, beautifying the area, environmental, seed money, etc. Generally, I think you will find these applications to be easier to fill out and with shorter turnaround times on funding announcements. Try this website to help locate a foundation near you.

Also, some larger businesses and corporations offer funding in the form of grants to groups in the areas where they have a plant or facility. Some suggestions are Pioneer or Cargill

Think about any local non-for-profit group you apart of and I bet there is some small project that you would like to get funding for. Perhaps it’s your local Fair Board wanting improved facilities, or your Young Farmers group is looking to start an educational program, or Soil and Water Conservation District looking to provide outreach on cleaning up a local waterway. It never hurts to look and see what funds are available in your area.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Don’t subtract processing, technology or innovation from your ag product; ADD VALUE!!!!

Have you ever considered producing an agricultural product on your farm in a non-traditional way? Have you thought about creating or expanding marketing opportunities for your ag products? What about utilizing some new technology or some on-farm renewable energies?

Any value-added effort towards generating new products, developing marketing opportunities and increasing producer income could easily provide new economic opportunities for your farming operation. A grant that could assist you in these areas would be USDA-Rural Development’s Value-Added Producers Grant Program. This grant is ideal for proposals that showcase creative uses of agricultural products. Individual farmers are eligible to apply, along with agriculture producer group, or majority-controlled producer-based business ventures. Funds can either be used for planning activities or working capital (but not both). The maximum amount awarded for a planning grant is $100,000 and the maximum for a working capital grant is $300,000. Applications are due on November 30, 2009 and more information can be found at

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Grants

Do you have an energy efficient idea for your farm or small business that could reduce energy use and result in financial savings for your operation? Maybe a project such as a grain dryer, or retrofitting lighting or insulation, maybe just adding solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, hydro power and hydrogen-based sources, or replacing equipment with more efficiency units. Or perhaps looking into diesel irrigation motors, upgrading poultry houses, new HVAC systems or more efficient windows for rural small businesses. All these projects and probably several more that you could think up would meet the criteria to apply for this grant. The only other requirements are that the project must be located in a rural area, owned by a farmer, rancher or a small business, produce energy in the form of heart, electricity or fuel, and is technically feasible. If your energy efficient or renewable energy project meets these guidelines, then what are you waiting for? You are eligible to apply for a Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Grant through USDA.

The REAP Grant was set up through Section 9007 of the 2008 Farm Bill and offers a grant, loan or grant/loan combination depending on the size of the project or the operations financial situation.

Grants are awarded on a competitive basis and are for up to 25% of total eligible project costs. Grants range from $2,500-$500,000 for renewable energy systems and between $1,500-$250,000 for energy efficiency improvements. Applications are being accepted by USDA on a continual basis. This past year Hoosier Farmers received over $3.8 million in REAP funds for 47 projects. For more additional information please check out USDA’s REAP website for the full program guidance.

Please note, grant funds cannot be used for the following items: Purchase land, Provide working capital, Research and Development, Residential improvements, Vehicles or Waste collections.

One item I would like to point out is that while this grant is a great opportunity for farmers to take advantage of, the application for this grant is long and time consuming. Many farmers hire a grant writer to assist them with their proposals. So if you are interested in these funds, start now and make sure to do your homework and research in order to bring those grant dollars into your energy efficient farming operation.

Friday, October 16, 2009

NCR-Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) Grants

This great opportunity allows producers to apply for up to $6,000 to use Sustainable Agriculture practices and/or their own innovation ideas to solve problems on their farm and share their ideas with others. Sustainable Agriculture is farming practices that are ecologically sound, profitable and socially responsible stewardship. Some practices that may be used on your farm are: Integrated Pest Management, Rotational Grazing, Soil Erosion Control, Soil Quality Improvement, Water Quality Improvement, Cover Crops, Crop/Landscape Diversity, Nutrient Management, Agroforestry, Wildlife Preservation, Beneficial Insects, Poultry & Small Scale Livestock Production, Organic Agriculture and alternative weed control.

From this list of practices, it would be easy to find something that could be applicable on your farm. What I would suggest is to pick one and do your homework on that topic. Be sure to find some stats and data to support how this practice would bring benefits to your operation. Also, consider some partners you could involve in your project like extension, SWCD's, and non-profits. The review committee will probably want to see ways you could share information about your project with others; like through field days, websites, etc.

USDA has allocated $400,000 for the 2009 NCR-SARE Farmer & Rancher Grant. The North Central SARE grant is open to any farmer/rancher or group of famers/ranchers who farm or operate in the following 12 states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

In my opinion it is a relatively easy application to fill out and is due on December 3, 2009. More information regarding this grant and the application can be found at:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why a Blog about Ag. Grants?

You may be asking yourself the question why anyone would bother blogging about agriculture grants. But, I'm guessing you found this blog because you were asking yourself if there are any resources out there that could help your farm or an agricultural organization you are a part of accomplish some specific project or goal. And now that you have stumbled onto this page you will be able to see where grants come into play; and it is my intent to utilize this blog to help you figure out how federal and foundation funding works.

Did you know USDA and other federal agencies offer grants, loans or sometimes grant-loan combinations to assist farmers with sustainable agriculture, bioenergy and value added projects? You can always find a list of open agriculture related grants by going to ISDA's Grant Webpage at:

It is my intent to use this blog as an additional resource for farmers and producers to come and learn about various funding topics like where to look on-line for funding, how to apply for funding, and lots of other tips, ideas and advice along the way. Each week I will highlight a recently opened grant at the bottom of this page and discuss all the details of the grant's criteria as well as giving some possible proposal ideas. I also plan to post polls to gather what additional information you would like to know about so I can cover those in future posts. Please feel free to post any comments or questions you may have as it is my hope that this blog can become a forum of information and sharing to help the agriculture community reach their funding goals.

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