Strategies to put in place prior to seeking state or federal funding
If the thought of applying for a state or federally funded agricultural program seems daunting, then keeping in mind a few tips may make the process feel less overwhelming. Whether it’s a program through the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, local county extension office or other government agency there are steps producers can take to make the process smoother.
First Stop: Though it varies depending on the program, typically producers will want to start by meeting with their local FSA representative. Employees at the FSA office can help producers set up their farm records and farm number as well as their eligibility paperwork needed for many government funded programs. To establish a farm record producers will need to bring in a warranty deed for proof of land ownership. If producers lease the land, they will need to bring a copy of the lease.
First Conversation: Producers don’t have to have everything figured out before they walk into the agency to apply for a program. Simply setting up an appointment and sharing about their operation with agency representatives is a good start. The employees take the information producers share about their operation and then recommend programs that will be the best fit.
It is beneficial for producers to establish the goals they want to accomplish prior to meeting with agency representatives. “It doesn’t have to be a detailed objective of what they want to accomplish, but if they have an idea of what they are striving for, it is helpful to know where they have been and what direction they would like to go,” Carissa Ennis, NRCS District Conservationist, said.
If farmers are unsure about what direction they are wanting to go, they may want to attend a grazing school, conference, seminar or other presentation hosted by agricultural experts. These opportunities often showcase new practices and techniques producers may want to incorporate into their operations.
Operation Assessments: Not all interactions occur in a government office, NRCS district conservationists and other county, state and federal employees meet with producers at their operations. “What we are trying to do more of now is spend more time with the producer on the operation looking at all of their concerns,” Ennis explained. “We discuss their short-term and long-term goals to see what is a good starting point and where they want to end.”
However, there is no guarantee a producer will be awarded financial assistance even if he or she has a good application and project. The programs are competitive and there limited funds allocated to the programs every year. Producers are competing against thousands of other farmers in their state and millions nationwide for funding.
Follow up: Producers who have already signed up and are in the system at the FSA, NRCS, a local extension office or other agency should keep in contact and are encouraged to follow up every few months to see if any new programs have come out and the eligibility requirements. Producers may want to ask about getting on an email list for communications that will give updates on potential opportunities.