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Federal Financial Assistance for Agricultural Producers

Because Food Alliance certified farms and ranches demonstrate the highest levels of conservation stewardship, they are very likely to be eligible for payments under the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), according to the NRCS.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has reviewed Food Alliance’s natural resource certification standards. Because Food Alliance certified farms and ranches demonstrate the highest levels of conservation stewardship, they are very likely to be eligible for payments under the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

“We want to encourage all certified farmers and ranchers in the target watersheds to apply for the Conservation Stewardship Program. In addition, we encourage all farmers and ranchers who participate in CSP to seek out sustainable niche market opportunities like those offered through the Food Alliance.”

-NRCS Oregon State Conservationist
Bob Graham

While NRCS can not guarantee at this time that any individual farm or ranch will receive CSP payments, Food Alliance certified farms and ranches have already met many of the program's eligibility requirements. Every Food Alliance certified farm or ranch should apply.

Following is more information about the Conservation Stewardship Program and other financial assistance programs provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
CSP is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to promote the conservation and improvement of soil, water, air, energy, plant and animal life, and other conservation purposes on Tribal and private working lands. Working lands include cropland, grassland, prairie land, improved pasture, and range land, as well as forested land that is an incidental part of an agriculture operation. The program is available in all 50 States, the Caribbean Area and the Pacific Basin area. The program provides equitable access to benefits to all producers, regardless of size of operation, crops produced, or geographic location.

Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA)

AMA provides cost share assistance to agricultural producers to voluntarily address issues such as water management, water quality, and erosion control by incorporating conservation into their farming operations. Producers may construct or improve water management structures or irrigation structures; plant trees for windbreaks or to improve water quality; and mitigate risk through production diversification or resource conservation practices, including soil erosion control, integrated pest management, or transition to organic farming.

Business and Industry Loan Guarantees
These loan guarantees are intended to create jobs and stimulate rural economies by providing financial backing for rural businesses. Uses include acquisition, start-up, and expansion of rural businesses that create employment. Businesses apply through federal or state-chartered banks, credit unions, or savings and loan associations. Water treatment facilities on location are an eligible loan purpose for this program.

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
CRP provides technical and financial assistance to eligible farmers and ranchers to address soil, water, and related natural resource concerns on their lands in an environmentally beneficial and cost-effective manner. The program provides assistance to farmers and ranchers in complying with Federal, State, and tribal environmental laws, and encourages environmental enhancement. Conservation Reserve Program reduces soil erosion, protects the Nation's ability to produce food and fiber, reduces sedimentation in streams and lakes, improves water quality, establishes wildlife habitat, and enhances forest and wetland resources. It encourages farmers to convert highly erodible cropland or other environmentally sensitive acreage to vegetative cover, such as tame or native grasses, wildlife plantings, trees, filterstrips, or riparian buffers. Farmers receive an annual rental payment for the term of the multi-year contract. Cost sharing is provided to establish the vegetative cover practices.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

EQIP is a voluntary conservation program for farmers and ranchers that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible national goals. EQIP offers financial and technical help to assist eligible participants install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land. EQIP offers contracts with a minimum term that ends one year after the implementation of the last scheduled practices and a maximum term of ten years. These contracts provide incentive payments and cost-shares to implement conservation practices. Persons who are engaged in livestock or agricultural production on eligible land may participate in the EQIP program. EQIP activities are carried out according to an environmental quality incentives program plan of operations developed in conjunction with the producer that identifies the appropriate conservation practice or practices to address the resource concerns. The practices are subject to NRCS technical standards adapted for local conditions. EQIP may cost-share up to 75 percent of the costs of certain conservation practices. Incentive payments may be provided for up to three years to encourage producers to carry out management practices they may not otherwise use without the incentive. However, limited resource producers and beginning farmers and ranchers may be eligible for cost-shares up to 90 percent. Farmers and ranchers may elect to use a certified third-party provider for technical assistance. An individual or entity may not receive, directly or indirectly, cost-share or incentive payments that, in the aggregate, exceed $450,000 for all EQIP contracts entered during the term of the Farm Bill.

Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP)

This program provides matching funds to help purchase development rights to keep productive farm and ranchland in agricultural uses. Working through existing programs, USDA partners with State, tribal, or local governments and non-governmental organizations to acquire conservation easements or other interests in land from landowners. USDA provides up to 50 percent of the fair market easement value of the conservation easement.

Farm Service Agency Farm Loan Programs
FSA makes direct and guaranteed farm ownership and operating loans to family-size farmers and ranchers who cannot obtain commercial credit from a bank, Farm Credit System institution, or other lender. FSA loans can be used to purchase land, livestock, equipment, feed, seed, and supplies. Loans can also be used to construct buildings or make farm improvements. Emergency loans may also be available to help farmers recover from production and physical losses due to drought, flooding, other natural disasters, or quarantine.

Grassland Reserve Program

A voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance grasslands on their property. The Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency and Forest Service are coordinating implementation of GRP, which helps landowners restore and protect grassland, rangeland, pastureland, shrubland and certain other lands and provides assistance for rehabilitating grasslands. The program will conserve vulnerable grasslands from conversion to cropland or other uses and conserve valuable grasslands by helping maintain viable ranching operations.

Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP)
A voluntary program established for the purpose of restoring and enhancing forest ecosystems to: 1) promote the recovery of threatened and endangered species, 2) improve biodiversity; and 3) enhance carbon sequestration.

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Program
Also known as Section 9006 of the Farm Bill. USDA Rural Development offers grants, guaranteed loans, and combination grant/guaranteed loans to help agriculture producers and rural small businesses purchase and install commercially available renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements in rural areas.

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Grants (SARE)
Offers three different types of grants for funding of relevant research projects: Research & Education, Professional Development, and Producer Grants. Researchers, agricultural educators, farmers and ranchers, and students in the United States are eligible to apply. There are numerous SARE grants including:

  • Research and Education Grants: Ranging from $30,000 to $150,000 or more, these grants fund projects that usually involve scientists, producers, and others in an interdisciplinary approach.
  • Professional Development Grants: To spread the knowledge about sustainable concepts and practices, these projects educate Cooperative Extension Service staff and other ag professionals.
  • Producer Grants: Producers apply for grants that typically run between $1,000 and $15,000 to conduct research, marketing and demonstration projects and share the results with other farmers and ranchers.
  • On Farm Research/Partnership: Supports on-farm research by Extension, NRCS, and/or nonprofit organizations. Northeast, Southern and Western regions.
  • Sustainable Community Innovation: Forges connections between sustainable agriculture and rural community development. Northeast and Southern regions.

Value Added Producer Grants

The purpose of these grants is to stimulate value-added agricultural ventures. These grants are intended to conduct feasibility analyses, develop business and marketing plans, and conduct other studies to help establish a viable value-added business venture. Also, they can be used to fund working capital if feasibility studies, business plans, and other supporting documentation are already in place. Agricultural producers and producer organizations are eligible to apply. Applicants must pledge matching funds.

Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)

The Wetlands Reserve Program is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property.  The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service provides technical and financial support to help landowners with their wetland restoration efforts.  The NRCS goal is to achieve the greatest wetland functions and values, along with optimum wildlife habitat, on every acre enrolled in the program.  This program offers landowners an opportunity to establish long-term conservation and wildlife practices and protection.

Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP)
WHIP is a voluntary program for people who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat primarily on private land. Through WHIP USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service provides both technical assistance and up to 75 percent cost-share assistance to establish and improve fish and wildlife habitat. WHIP agreements between NRCS and the participant generally last from 5 to 10 years from the date the agreement is signed. WHIP has proven to be a highly effective and widely accepted program across the country. By targeting wildlife habitat projects on all lands and aquatic areas, WHIP provides assistance to conservation minded landowners. The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 reauthorized WHIP as a voluntary approach to improving wildlife habitat in our Nation.

Related Resources

Building Better Rural Places Guide
Federal Programs for Sustainable Agriculture, Forestry, Entrepreneurship, Conservation and Community Development (2004)

Rural Information Center (RIC) at the National Agricultural Library maintains these online funding resources:

Other Federal Grant Programs allows organizations to electronically find and apply for more than $400 billion in federal grants. is the single access point for over 1,000 grant programs offered by all federal grant making agencies. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is proud to be the managing partner for