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At the intersection of food, soil, climate, farming and water.

Spotlight on Agricultural Funding – February 2016

If you are interested in any of the funding opportunities below please contact Deirdre Birmingham at: deirdreb4@gmail.com

Funding in WI to increase SNAP participation in farmers’ markets-Apply by Feb. 26

The Department of Health Services (DHS) is pleased to announce that Wisconsin has received funding from the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) as part of a nationwide effort to increase farmers’ market participation in SNAP, also known as FoodShare in Wisconsin.
At the link below, you will find a memo with details on this funding opportunity as well as an application of interest. DHS is asking farmers’ markets and direct-marketing farmers interested in this funding to complete this application and submit it to DHSFarmersMarket@wisconsin.gov no later than February 26, 2016.

Interested farmers’ markets and direct-marketing farmers that do not currently have SNAP authorization must also begin the process of applying for SNAP authorization no later than March 4, 2016.

To apply for SNAP authorization, please visit:

http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/retailers-0 or call (877) 823-4369

NOTE: If you were previously a recipient of funding for a wireless point-of-sale (POS) device, your market is not eligible to participate in this funding opportunity.

If you have questions, please contact Katie Vieira at DHSFarmersMarket@wisconsin.gov or (608) 261-7832.
We look forward to working with you to support local business and promote healthy foods in Wisconsin.

Blooming Prairie Foundation Grants – Due March 1, 2016

The Blooming Prairie Foundation is accepting applications from the Midwest for the 2016 grant application process!  Only nonprofits with a 501(c)(3) status may apply.  Grants are awarded to conduct any of the following activities that will further the health of people, the planet, and the cooperative business model:

  • Developmental, research and education efforts in the organic industry and the cooperative community
  • The development of organic and natural products or services
  • Cooperative development in the natural products or organic industry

Apply by March 1, 2016.

Find out more on their Grant Applications page.



How New USDA Risk Management Tools Can Help Diversified Producers – Webinar and Resources
Apply for Whole Farm Revenue Protection by March 15th, 2016!

Are you interested in risk management options that incentivize diversity in your operation?

Then watch this recorded webinar and learn how the new USDA Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) can help cover economic losses due to weather or low market prices. By tying coverage to revenue and diversification, the streamlined application and whole farm coverage is more attractive to farms of all sizes.

Webinar and Launch Page Link: https://michaelfields.org/whole-farm-revenue-protection-webinar-2/

Organic and specialty crop producers, including those who grow canning crops or direct-market, stand to particularly benefit from this program but WFRP is useful for all types of diversified cash grain and/or livestock producers.

The Michael Fields Agricultural Institute believes this program is significant to diversified producers because of the flexibility and ease of use it offers to covering multiple crops and livestock under one policy as well as the incentives it creates to increase diversity on existing farming operations.

MFAI’s Policy Program Director Margaret Krome notes that “Wisconsin has a very diversified agricultural sector, and many producers have long wished for risk management tools that allowed them to diversify. RMA’s new Whole Farm Revenue Protection program not only allows diversification but actually increases premium subsidies for more enterprises on a farm!”

This webinar was hosted by Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and the Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Service (MOSES).



USDA Conservation Stewardship Program taking applications by March 31st

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that $150 million in funding is available for agricultural producers through the Conservation Stewardship Program. CSP provides annual payments to private and tribal agricultural producers for their environmental performance.

“The Conservation Stewardship Program provides payments to agricultural producers for their efforts to reduce soil erosion, protect water quality and improve wildlife habitat. Producers also utilize the program to implement additional conservation enhancements on their land like cover crops and nutrient management,” said State Conservationist Garry Lee of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The Conservation Stewardship Program is administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Farmers and private forest owners have until March 31, to apply for 2016 funding. Current CSP participants whose contracts are expiring in 2016 must also submit an application by March 31, if they want to renew their program contracts. Applications for CSP are accepted continuously but only applications submitted by the cut-off date will be considered for 2016 funds.

A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is compatible with their operation. As part of the application process, applicants will work with NRCS field personnel to complete a resource inventory of their land to determine the conservation performance for existing and new conservation activities. The applicant’s conservation performance will be used to determine eligibility, ranking and payments.

Through CSP, USDA has provided more than $4 billion since 2009 in assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest managers to enhance conservation on more than 70 million acres.

For more information about CSP contact your local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office and go to http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/programs/financial/csp/?cid=STELPRDB1242683

WI Organic Certification Cost Share Deadline Extended to March 31, 2016

Cost Share Deadline

Wisconsin Dept. of Trade and Consumer Protection has extended the deadline to submit applications for organic cost share through March 31, 2016. Certified producers and handlers can apply for reimbursement for certification-related expenses they incur from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30. Payments will be up to 75 percent of certification costs with a maximum of $750 per category of certification.

DATCP cost share website


USDA Value-Added Producer Grant Update

It is anticipated that in FY 2016 there will be approximately $52 million available nationwide under the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program. The actual date of the notice of funding availability (NOFA) at the present time is unknown.

Please note that this would be a significant increase in funding from the previous years. Future year’s funding will be subject to annual appropriations resulting in far fewer dollars for the program.
There are two types of grants available: Planning Grants and Working Capital Grants.
The maximum grant amount for a planning grant is $75,000 and the maximum grant amount for a working capital grant is $250,000.  A 50% match is required.
If you are at all thinking about this, decide NOW if you are going to apply.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has a great Farmer’s Guide to the VAPG : www.sustainableagriculture.net/publications
After reviewing the materials, list your questions and contact your state’s USDA Rural Development office for a phone appt to discuss your questions.

You are welcome to also discuss with the Grants Advisor of Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and Wisconsin Farmers Union.


Farm to School Grant Program Schedule Changes

From the USDA:
Exciting change is underway with the USDA Farm to School Grant Program! The Child Nutrition Act, the authorizing legislation for the grant program, is currently in the reauthorization process in Congress. The most recent version passed by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry includes changes that impact the scope of the grant program.

In anticipation of change, there will be a delay in the release of the FY2017 request for applications from February to September. In addition to preparing for the potential changes in the authorizing legislation, a schedule adjustment will allow time to review the program’s current policies and procedures, taking into account feedback from past applicants and grantees, and program evaluation results.

We will continue to keep you updated on the USDA Farm to School Grant Program through The Dirt and our website. Thank you for your understanding during this time of exciting change!

Below is the anticipated schedule:

September 2016: Release FY2017 request for Farm to School Grant applications
November 2016: FY2017 Farm to School Grant applications due
May 2017: Announce awards

Learn more at http://www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool or contact us at farmtoschool@fns.usda.gov.


USDA Farm Ownership Microloans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will begin offering farm ownership microloans, creating a new financing avenue for farmers to buy and improve property. These microloans will be especially helpful to beginning or underserved farmers, U.S. veterans looking for a career in farming, and those who have small and mid-sized farming operations.
The microloan program, which celebrates its third anniversary this week, has been hugely successful, providing more than 16,800 low-interest loans, totaling over $373 million to producers across the country. Microloans have helped farmers and ranchers with operating costs, such as feed, fertilizer, tools, fencing, equipment, and living expenses since 2013. Seventy percent of loans have gone to new farmers.
Now, microloans will be available to also help with farmland and building purchases, and soil and water conservation improvements. FSA designed the expanded program to simplify the application process, expand eligibility requirements and expedite smaller real estate loans to help farmers strengthen their operations. Microloans provide up to $50,000 to qualified producers, and can be issued to the applicant directly from the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA).

Learn more here.


Post Image Credit: Dennis Jarvis – Flickr CC