Considerations when applying for cost-share assistance

Farmers may find it overwhelming when looking for and pursuing involvement in a government cost-share program. Though the options and paperwork may seem too vast to tackle, area extension specialists encourage farmers not to get overwhelmed. Experts offer several recommendations to help make the process as smooth as possible. 

Create Farm Plan First

 Before applying for involvement in any cost-share program, experts recommend creating a farm plan. This includes establishing short-term and long-term goals for the farm. “Our programs are tools, they are not the objectives; they are the tools to achieve the objectives,” Joe Massey, district conservationist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Baxter and Marion counties, Ark., said.

Additionally, the programs farmers consider should align with their farm goals. District conservationists and extension specialists encourage farmers to only apply for programs that they think will benefit their operation. “The programs are supposed to work for the farmer, not the other way around,” Massey stated.

Assess Program Expectations and Requirements

 Though cost-share programs may help producers meet their goals, the program may come with requirements that producers aren’t comfortable following. The government funding may require significant paperwork, reporting metrics or long-term follow-ups. Knowing the expectations upfront will allow producers to make a decision before too much time or energy is invested. 

Farmers should assess the program requirements and determine if they are willing to comply with those conditions. “I think that is an important component of any group that you are going to financially participate with; to make sure you are all pulling in the same direction,” Scott Clawson, Area Agriculture Economics Specialist with Oklahoma State University Extension, said. “And that you have some shared goals as far as what is being accomplished with that money.” 

The money received in the cost-share program could have tax ramifications. Producers should ask if the income that comes from the cost-share program is going to be taxable. 

Patience, Flexibility and Perseverance 

When seeking funding through cost-share programs keep in mind the importance of patience. “The first thing I tell everybody I work with is, it is a slow process; it is an annual funding cycle,” Massey explained.

According to Massey, there is a lot of waiting, then more waiting and after that, even more waiting. “It will try your patience,” Massey added. However, Massey encourages producers to regularly check-in with their area agriculture representative for guidance and support throughout the process. 

Benefits to Applying

Cost-share programs are a competitive process. “On an annual basis we probably get about three times as many applications as we get funded,” Massey stated. “But we tell them if you are not selected for funding this go around, we will stay after it until we do get you funding.” 

In addition, new initiatives become available on a regular basis. If one program isn’t a good fit, a new program that is a perfect fit may be on the horizon.

Agriculture representatives say not all is lost if producers are not approved for a program. Going through the process can bring about benefits of its own. “Even if denied it is usually still a good thing for the operation to go through because it helps them to formalize their financial situation or their mission and goals for their farm or ranch,” Clawson stated.


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