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The government can be a big scary, hairy machine sometimes. But don’t let that fear stop you from taking advantage of great programs that are offered to assist farmers, especially small farmers. Behind each government program there’s a team of people that want to help you succeed. Here are some highlights of different resources that the government is offering you.
Conservation is always on the minds of farmers, much of what farmers do can’t be done without the land. The Natural Resources Conservation Services is here to help you add conservation to your farm. One program that many of our farmers have taken advantage of is EQIP. This is a voluntary conservation program that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality. This program offers financial and technical assistance to install or implement structural and management practices. Wendy Johnson of the Savings Incentive Class of 2015 has recently used EQIP on her farm as she is transiting to organic. Last fall she hosted a field day giving others a chance to see what she has done on her farm. Check out the recap from her field day to learn more.
Another great tool that NRCS has developed is the Conservation Planning Self-Assessment Workbook. This acts as a first step to understanding your land and the conservation practices that may be beneficial to it. The workbook is intended for farmers to complete themselves and use as a tool when starting the conversation with their local NRCS office about conservation for their land. If you have completed this workbook please let us know how it helped you in your conservation planning, check out this short survey to provide your feedback. To learn more about what the NRCS can do for you contact your local office to schedule a visit.
Looking for a loan? Try your local Farm Service Agency office. Your local office can assist you with services offered by USDA. These include financial assistance for land and capital and conservation planning. These local USDA offices can also connect you to local resources and organizations to help you achieve your goals. When planning a visit, make sure you are prepared. To help you out the folks at the USDA have created a checklist to help you prepare for your visit. When you make your first appointment you will be assigned a farm number from the Farm Service Agency, which will allow you to access key USDA programs.
One of the programs that can help you become more efficient is the USDA Farm Storage Loan. When Grinnell Heritage Farm outgrew their packing shed they decided it was time to expand. They applied for the Farm Storage Loan to help support this expansion. Steve Carlson wrote a blog recently about how this loan can now be used to build, upgrade, or purchase on-farm or mobile storage, packing, washing, and handling facilities. Some of the Savings Incentive Program farmers are already looking to apply for this loan.
Another great opportunity that the USDA is currently accepting applications for is the Value Added Producer Grant. This grant provides funding to farmers or groups of farmers on a competitive basis to create or develop value-added producer-owned businesses. Its goal is to help producers generate new products, create or expand. National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has published an informative handout that guides you through the process of applying for this grant. Steve Carlson caught up with some Practical Farmers of Iowa members who have received this grant. Read about how they applied and what the grant has done for them in the upcoming Spring edition of The Practical Farmer.
Don’t let these great programs skip past you. There are so many resources to help you find the right program to fit your operation. Here at the Practical Farmers of Iowa office we are happy to direct you to the right resource to help you succeeded, just let us know how to help.