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USDA SARE grants program: Farmer grant opportunities and resources

 

University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

 

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The USDA has a program devoted to providing sustainable practices for “all of agriculture.” It’s called the SARE program – Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. This program, which primarily funds a whole range of grants, is administered on a regional basis. Kentucky is in the Southern Region. All of the decisions regarding grant approval are made at the regional level by a committee of farmers, university representatives, and organization and government representatives. This Administrative Council gets help from technical experts in the region for evaluating proposals.

SARE’s mission is to help U.S. agriculture innovate in ways that improve sustainability. That is, agriculture which satisfies human food and fiber needs in sustainability’s three dimensions – improving profitability, protecting the environmental and enhancing quality of life. SARE does this by investing with grants in research and education.


Because SARE has been funding practical research for more than 25 years, it has great resources available. Check out the website: www.sare.org and search on whatever topic you need help with. For example, a search on “cattle grazing” generates a list of 213 resources. One can get project reports and even books. Some are at modest charges, but almost all of them are available for free if you want to use an electronic version.


If you want to learn about SARE grants, go to the regional webpage – www.southernsare.org. SARE’s total budget is about $20 million, small by comparison to other programs, but still effective. Southern SARE provides larger grants for research and professional education, but also smaller grants targeted to farmers. Two of these programs are the “Producer” and “On-Farm Research” grants opportunities.

 

The Producer Grants are up to $10,000 for an individual farmer, with $15,000 limit for a group of farmers who want to do a research or educational project on their farm which will enhance sustainability. Many of the successful proposals are projects designed to refine a practice developed at a research farm or in another area. The On-Farm Research Grants are targeted toward partnerships of farmers and professionals (like extension agents/specialists and NRCS staff) who are doing similar types of research. The On-Farm Grants max out at $15,000. While the official call for proposals will be issued in September with a November deadline, you can start working on your ideas and plans now. The SARE council usually approves about 15-20% of these grant proposals.


SARE also helps farmers with state educational funds. There are two SARE coordinators in Kentucky, Marion Simon at Kentucky State University and Paul Vincelli at the University of Kentucky. Brett Wolff is the SARE program assistant and the best initial contact. An advisory committee (if you are interested in helping, contact Brett Wolff) makes suggestions on how the training funds will be used. Currently, the Professional Development Program (PDP) funds are being used for training related to cover crops, foods safety, GMO education and organic practices.

 

 

This article was written by Lee Meyer, Brett Wolff, and Paul Vincelli, agriculture economists at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. The article first appeared in the May 27 edition of Economic and Policy Update.