3 Ways the Government Can Help Fund Your Farming Operation

file folders with "funding" and "grants" dividers

Government grants and cooperatives are great options to help fund your farming operation. We've done a little bit of the research for you, and found a handful of grants and cooperatives that you may qualify for. Take a look at this list.

Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program

This program provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements. This program helps increase American energy independence by increasing the private sector supply of renewable energy and decreasing the demand for energy through energy efficiency improvements. Over time, these investments can also help lower the cost of energy costs for small businesses and agricultural producers.

What is an eligible area?

  • Agricultural producers may be in rural or non-rural areas.

  • Businesses must be in an area other than a city or town with a population of greater than 50,000 inhabitants and the urbanized area of that city or town.

How may the funds be used?

Funds may be used for renewable energy systems, such as:

  • Biomass (for example: biodiesel and ethanol, anaerobic digesters, and solid fuels)

  • Geothermal for electric generation or direct use

  • Hydropower below 30 megawatts

  • Hydrogen

  • Small and large wind generation

  • Small and large solar generation

  • Ocean (tidal, current, thermal) generation

Funds may also be used for the purchase, installation and construction of energy efficiency improvements, such as:

  • High efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC)

  • Insulation

  • Lighting

  • Cooling or refrigeration units

  • Doors and windows

  • Electric, solar, or gravity pumps for sprinkler pivots

  • Switching from a diesel to electric irrigation motor

  • Replacement of energy-inefficient equipment

To learn more about this grant, visit Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Loans & Grants.

Coastal Program -- Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

The Coastal Program is a voluntary, incentive-based program that provides technical and financial assistance to coastal communities and landowners to restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat on public and private lands.

What is an eligible area?

The Coastal Program - Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding is available to coastal areas within the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes basin, which includes parts of:

  • Michigan

  • Wisconsin

  • Minnesota

  • Illinois

  • Indiana

  • Ohio

  • Pennsylvania

  • New York

How may the funds be used?

The Coastal Program is not a conventional grants program, in that it does not solicit projects through a request for proposals. Instead project work plans are developed strategically, in coordination with partners, and with substantial involvement from Service field staff.Projects must advance the Coastal Program's mission, promote biological diversity, and be based upon sound scientific biological principles.

To learn more about this grant, visit Coastal Program – Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Notice of Funding Opportunity.

Cooperative Agriculture in the National Wildlife Refuge System

Cooperative agriculture —partnering with farmers and ranchers to meet wildlife management objectives — is a long-standing practice on national wildlife refuges. 

Cooperative agreements between the Service and farmers or ranchers may permit grazing by cattle or the growing of grain, hay or other crops at a specific refuge. The refuge benefits by producing more food for wildlife or by improving natural habitat. The farmer profits by harvesting and selling the remaining crop. The rancher gains access to more grazing land.

Cooperative agriculture is used on refuges only in situations where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cannot meet its resource management objectives through the maintenance, management, or mimicking of natural ecosystem processes or functions in other ways.

How to Apply for a Cooperative Agriculture Opportunity

Cooperative agriculture agreements on refuges are awarded through an open and competitive process. Each opportunity is unique and tailored to the conditions at an individual refuge and the needs of its surrounding agricultural community. The Service enters into agreements with farmers and ranchers based on their experience and ability to conduct their agricultural business under similar agreements and restrictions. The Service works with farmers and ranchers to ensure that all parties meet their objectives.

To learn more about cooperative agriculture opportunities and to see what cooperatives are open, visit Cooperative Agriculture in the NWRS.

There are many other government grants at the federal, state, and local level which could be applicable to your agriculture operation. 

farmers handing over US dollars in row crop field

Consider Crowdfunding with Harvest Returns

Grants can be a good way to build seed capital for your farming operation. That non-diluted start-up cash can allow to bring in equity partners via crowdfunding to finance land acquisition or farm expansion. Harvest Returns is the internet’s one-stop shop that connects farmers in need of capital and investors looking to diversify and grow their portfolio.

The Harvest Returns platform brings together high net worth individuals with experienced agriculture producers to raise capital for agricultural farmland, ranchland, and timberland via the crowdfunding process. Simply put, crowdfunding allows a business venture to raise capital rapidly by collecting monetary contributions from a large number of investors. The JOBS Act of 2012 eased securities regulations to legalize equity crowdfunding and allows us to list these deals to qualified investors.

With a government grant and cooperative, your farming operation becomes more marketable to investors or help with bank financing. A combination of these funding options could provide the seed capital expand or build a successful farming operation.