The Obama administration claims that the economic development of rural America is high on its list of goals to accomplish. This intent is not well known as you don’t hear much about it in the media. The White House Rural Council was established in 2011 with a stated goal of improving the national economy by boosting the economies of our rural population. It aims to assist with the creation of jobs and the improvement of rural communities.
Much of those benefits should accrue to farms, as farms are of course businesses! Examples of the programs that have been put into place follow. Many of these are related to major grants that go to government agencies or partnerships rather than to individual farmers. They will hopefully have a big impact on the outlook for farming overall. However, if you are an individual farmer or would-be farmer who is looking for a grant or loan, you will find available options for individuals at USDA Farm Grants. See our discussion below about Family Farm Grants and take a look at the article Grants for Farms.
Government Programs to Help Farmers
The Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund was created by the Rural Council to make money more accessible for infratructure projects and improvements. It was funded with $10 billion by CoBank (a national cooperative for rural Americans) and Capitol Peak Asset Management. The latter will manage the fund’s investments and encourage new investors to join and contribute. They will target institutional investors like pension funds and endowments in order to raise more money for the infrastructure projects.
The Rural Business Investment Program was announced by the Secretary of Agriculture to promote the development and expansion of small businesses in rural America. Advantage Capital Agribusiness Partners and nine partners of the Farm Credit Institution have provided $150 million in initial capital, which wil be used to fund loans and loan guarantees to small rural businesses.
The Improving Rural Health Care Initiative provided nealy $10 million to fund improvements in healthcare quality and to reduce the disparities in healthcare access for rural populations. The money was comprised of two grants. One went to the Delta State Rural Development Network Grant program. This program will help the eight states of the Delta region to address long-standing health care disparaties. The second went to the Small Health Care Provider Quality Improvement program for support of their assistance to rural health clinics, community health centers and samll rural hospitals.
Through the Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative the American Farm Bureau Fedeation and Georgetown Universities McDonough School of Business Global Social Enterprise Initiative have teamed up to encourage statrt-ups to consider locating in rural ommunities and to guide and motivate entrepeneus in those areas.
Made in Rural America is a new program where the government and business leaders are joining forces to help rural manufacturers and service providers understand how they can expand their businesses and increase their opportunities by opening up to globalmarkets. Forums are being conducted by members of the Department of Commerce, the Dapartment of Agriculture, the Small Business Administration, u.S. TradeRepesentatives, and officials from the Export-Import Bank.
Family Farm Grants
While these are not government grants they are very important for farmers and would-be farmers to know about! These are actually grants (i.e. “free” money — money that doesn’t have to be paid back) given to individual family farms and those that help them survive and thrive.
Farm Aid is an amazing organization that provides invaluable information and resources to family farms and farmers. Started after the first concert (1985) by Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp, they have raised over $45 million to support a resilient United States agriculture system of family farms.
Their long list of supportive offerings includes a Grants Program which makes awards each year. In 2014, 83 famiy farms and related organizations in 36 different states got grants ranging from $500 to $20,000, for a grand total of more than $585 million. Some were emergency grants to families in crisis; others to provide training and tools to low-income farmers developing sustainable small farming businesses; others to connect medium sized farms urban areas like New York City — and on and on. You can read the complete list of recipients and all the different caregories and innovative programs that are out there at the farmaid.org website.
To apply for a grant check out the appllication guidelines spelled out on the farmaid site. It explains sseveral different categories of grants so you can see where you would best fit before going into more detail. Most grants run between $3000 to 10,000. You must first send a letter of inquiry — and, importantly, you must be a 501(c)(3) certified organization. If you are a farmer looking for aid, see their Help for Farmers page and it will provide several avenues to seek financial and other types of help.