USDA Funding Available

Risk Management Education Grants


Adapted from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition's blog post

Education and training to help farmers manage risks related to food production and the natural resources that underlie that production – as well as all manner of financial, marketing, and legal risks – can play a critical role in keeping farmers on the land and helping a new generation of farmers get off to a good start.

On September 16, the four regional Extension Risk Management Education (RME) centers announced the opening of the application process for the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)-backed Risk Management Education project grants. Between the four regional centers – North Central, Northeast, Western, and Southern – about 60 grants are expected to be doled out for projects up to $50,000 and with a maximum timeline of 18 months. Projects grants are available for any non-profit or extension organization engaged in risk management education and training projects. This competitive grant program in particular emphasizes projects that focus on risk management for beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers, or retiring farmers who are transitioning their farms.

Applicants from the NESAWG 12-state region (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia) can apply through the Northeast Regional Risk Management Education Center. Applications and instructions for applying are on the Northeast Center's website.

NIFA segments “risk” into five possible sources and identifies different ways a program could tackle these risk-related topics to qualify for the grant.

  • Production Risk (e.g., crop insurance, diversification)
  • Marketing Risk (e.g., crop production, direct marketing, marketing plans)
  • Financial Risk (e.g., financial records and analysis, value-added enterprises)
  • Legal Risk (e.g., food safety liability, environmental regulations)
  • Human Risk (e.g., transition and estate planning, labor retention)

Details of these mechanisms for the Northeast can be found in the Northeast Center's RFA. In addition, the Northeast Center lists six priorities when looking for eligible programs in its RFA, including projects dealing with new and beginning farmers and education surrounding leases and land tenure agreements, as well as leadership training for potentially new farmers regarding topics like crop insurance.

While a majority of the projects that the four regions plan to fund in 2017 will be focused on “Education Projects,” each region will allocate a small amount of grants (specified within each regional RFA) to “Exploratory Projects” – projects that are still in preliminary or piloting stages and generally proposed by first time applicants.

All RME Centers have the same application deadline: November 17, 2016 at close of business. Grant recipients will be notified by February 17, 2017.

Since 2004, USDA has awarded 799 awards, 170 of which have been in the NESAWG 12-state region. Communities Involved in Sustainable Agriculture (CISA), a NESAWG partner organization in Holyoke, MA, received a grant to host a workshop series to train farmers in the basics of effective electronic communications, such as websites, blogs, social media, email newsletters, SEO, video, mobile, etc. According to Program Director Kelly Coleman, "NERME funding has been an important source of funding for our winter technical assistance workshops- from branding and communications to labor issues to business planning and financial decision making."

Descriptions of other funded projects in our region are found on the Extension Risk Management Education website.

For more information, visit the Northeast RME Center's website.

Photo: Carey Baker, Midnightson Designs, presents the basics of effective electronic communication to farmers in western Mass as part of CISA’s NERME funded series on Branding & Communication strategies.

Photo Credit: Communities Involved in Sustainable Agriculture