Information to keep in mind when seeking grant funding
The thought of applying for a grant may conjure images of piles of paperwork that need to be filled out or stacks of pages that must be read through line by line. Though seeking funding through a grant may seem daunting, breaking down the process into realistic steps can make the ordeal much more manageable.
Grant Need to Know Info
First, farmers should keep in mind there are a lot of different grant programs available. “It is important to read grants carefully and make sure that your farm qualifies for the grant before spending a lot of time writing,” Courtney Bir, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics, explained.
When searching for grants that will fit their operations, producers should keep in mind grants can be specific to stages of the operation or the type of farm or farmer. For example, some grants may serve a beginning farmer or rancher. In other cases, grants may target a farm focusing on organic production or underserved farmers and ranchers.
Experts recommend searching for grants that align with the type of operator or operation. If producers need help, specialists at county extension offices can help guide farmers find grants that are a good fit. Additionally, before applying for a grant, it is important to look into the tax implications of that specific grant.
Information Needed to Apply
Though each grant possesses its own conditions, there are some general items most grant applications require. Grants may ask for a business plan, production records or other information specific to the applicant’s farm. It is important to carefully read the information required.
Though at first glance the process may be overwhelming, stay the course. “Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have all of the documentation at first,” Bir said. “There may be current extension programs that can help you.” Bir points to Oklahoma State University Extension’s farm financial planning tool as an example of a method to help producers with documentation for grants or other purposes. Many states offer similar planning tools.
Some grants require producers to submit financial statements such as beginning and ending balance sheets or other farm financial records. If that is the case, there are likely area programs in place to assist farmers in collecting and organizing the information.
Complying with each requirement of the grant application is a necessity. “It is important to carefully read the submission requirements, and submit all of the documents,” Bir said. “Applications with missing requirements are likely to be immediately rejected.”
What can Grant Money be Used For?
What the grant money can be used for is specific to the grant. According to Bir, it is important for the applicant to read the grant carefully and ask questions for clarification. Additionally, if producers enter the grant search with clear goals, they will have more success finding a grant that will help them accomplish their objectives.
According to Oklahoma State University economists, grant money rarely pays for capital assets such as machinery, equipment, land or breeding stock. Those type of assets are more likely to be funded by loans.
Producers who apply for grants should only enter the process if they plan to follow through with the required documentation. Grants carry penalties for noncompliance specific to that grant. “It is important to remember there is no such thing as ‘free money,’” Bir stated. “Receiving a grant includes the expectation that you will following through with your proposal and submit the documentation or other materials as outlined in the grant.”
Even if producers initially fail to find a grant that meets the needs of their operation, they should keep looking. Economists say the type and number of grants available are constantly changing, so don’t give up.