University of Maryland Extension

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Show Me the Money - Finding Funding for Your Business

Whether a new farmer/food entrepreneur, or an established operation, you’re probably going to need to finance some aspect of your business. There are various loan programs for farmers and food entrepreneurs. There are also some specific grant programs, but these are very specific and very competitive to obtain. Obtaining grants require a lot of work, often have delayed payments or require up-front investment, and are not a reliable source of income. This article provides guidance for evaluating if your needs qualify for the grant’s targeted outcomes and how best to apply for a grant. 

Loan programs often have a specified forms and financial requirements to qualify. This site is used to determine eligibility for certain USDA loan programs. In order to be eligible for many USDA loans, household income must meet certain guidelines. Also, the home to be purchased must be located in an eligible rural area as defined by USDA.

https://eligibility.sc.egov.usda.gov/eligibility/welcomeAction.do(link is external)

A common complaint from farmers pursuing loans is the amount of paperwork involved. But for some farmers, a loan can help accomplish critical pieces of a business plan. When visiting with a loan officer, be prepared by having your request, your business plan, and supporting materials along with you. Here are some sites with more information on farm loads.

Kauppila, Dennis. How to Get Your First Farm Loan
http://onpasture.com/2015/06/15/how-to-get-your-first-farm-loan/(link is external)

Applying for a Farm Service Agency (FSA) Loan. https://nesfp.org/sites/default/files/resources/applying_for_a_farm_service_agency_loan.pdf(link is external)

Review of Lender Requirements for Beginning Farmer Loan Programs
http://www.marbidco.org/Credit%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf(link is external)

Whether applying for a loan or grant, you should first consider how much debt you are willing and able to carry. You can avoid or minimize your debt load by considering strategies to reduce your costs. For example renting or leasing land, starting small or starting part-time, acquiring used equipment, or custom hiring for some tasks.

Regardless of which programs you decide to take advantage of, a written business plan is a requirement for almost all of them. Working on your business plan will help you identify your specific financial needs and assist you in writing clear project objectives and detailed budget projections.

These sites provide templates and guidance for developing and writing your business plan:

  • AgPlan is powerful website developed to help rural businesses develop a business plan. AgPlan is free of charge for anyone to use individually or in educational programs. It is designed to provide customized assistance to different types of rural businesses. https://agplan.umn.edu/(link is external)

Choosing Which Grants Apply to You?

  1. You’ve just read about a grant program that is now accepting applications and you wonder if you should apply for the funding.  Grant writing is time consuming. Determining where and which grants will give you the best return on the time you invest in the application is your first step. This process involves:  

    A)  Developing a clear picture of what you need and the amount of funds need to accomplish your goals.

    B)  Determining which grants you are eligible to apply for. Read the grant eligibility terms carefully to see if you meet their requirements and can provide the documentation requested.

    C)  Selecting the grants that seem to be the best fit for your needs; knowing your goals match their parameters for funding.

  2. Research the types of projects the funder has historically supported in the past. Funders’ websites often list previous and/or current projects they’re funding. Look at the formatting, goals, and word choice of appeals similar to your’s to help you design your grant application.

  3. Begin drafting the two major sections of what will become your completed application- the project overview and the budget. Much of this information can be minded from your business plan.  Work on these two sections simultaneously to detail your exact project and the dollar amounts need to accomplish the project.  Work at clarifying these two sections until each goal is reflected in the proposed budget and each budget expense can be justified for accomplishing your goals.

Writing Successful Grant Applications

  1. Determine your eligibility. Be sure you project, and possible participants, meet all the funder’s requirements or your application may be deemed ineligible.

  2. Create a timeline for collecting your information, supporting documents, writing the proposal and a timely submission. You must meet the grant’s deadline for submission or grant application will be deemed ineligible. If the submission is to be uploaded electronically, be sure you have registered with the site, if required, and give yourself several days of lead time for downed servers, computer glitches or on-line delays. Do not wait until the last minute to summit your application on line. The receiving system may already have many other applications in its queue and may time-out before your application is received. Or, your application may upload after the specified closing time and be deemed ineligible.

  3. Develop a checklist of all the requested documentation requested in the grant’s call for proposals. Pay careful attention to the formatting and organizational outline required for these documents. These usually include, but are not limited to: a project overview, detailed description of the project, an implementation plan, summary, proposed budget and a detailed budget justification page. The grantor may also request supporting financial statements and letters of support from collaborators.

  4. Write a convincing grant proposal. As stated earlier, most grants have specific writing guidelines including a list of items to address. Be sure to stick closely to those guidelines. Keep your language plain and straightforward. Be very clear about your goals, needs, how you plan to be successful with the assistance of the grant’s funding. Include the resources, partners, and personal attributes that you bring to the project that will make it successful.

  5. State your outcomes in measurable units and make your purpose clear. Use real numbers such as how much more production, how many animals, how many acres, or how many more clients served. Be careful not to inflate these numbers as that can make reporting final results more difficult.

  6. Once your proposal is written, begin the process of heavy editing. Have someone else read through your proposal for clarity. Check for errors in spelling, punctuation, or grammar and for font consistencies. Your proposal will be strengthened if your request includes some of the language used in the call for applications. If you “mirror” the funder’s language or terms, they are more likely to see a direct correlation between your project and their desired outcomes.

    For example, if the grantor states the funding is to be used to help develop sales of local produce, your proposal should include language that reflects this. A response could read, “Funding from this grant will assist in purchasing equipment for building raised beds on our farm. This will increase our crops yields, providing more locally grown product to sell at our farm stand and our local farmers market.” Matching the language of the grants lets evaluators know you have carefully read the grant’s goals and your proposal is a good match for this type of funding.

Grants for farming or specialty food businesses are very competitive. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get funded right away. The more grants you apply for over time, the better your chances to be funded.

 

Grant and Loans for Farmers and Food Entrepreneurs

GRANTS

Barnraiser (online fundraising)

Agency: Barnraiser
Type: Grant
Source: Crowdfunding
Website: barnraiser.us(link is external)
Contact: barnraiser.us/contact_us
Description: Raise funds for food and farming-related projects by attracting online donations.
Amount: Any amount
Matching Requirement: None
Special Requirements:
Application Period: Anytime

Conservation Innovation Grants

Agency: USDA-NRCS
Type: Grant
Source: Federal
Website:nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/cig/(link is external)
Contact: NRCS Service Center Office in Waverly at 607-565-3454 or NRCS Horseheads Program 
Delivery Point at 607-739-2009
Description: The Conservation Innovation Grants are aimed to help encourage the development and implementation of innovative conservation practices on agricultural land. About 10% of the funding for these grants is designated towards historically under-served and veteran farmers.
Amount: 
Matching Requirement: 50% or more of total cost of the project.
Special Requirements: Must be eligible for Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP).
Application Period: Ongoing

Farm to School Grant Program

Agency: USDA-FSA
Type: Grant
Source: Federal
Website: https://www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/farm-school-grant-program(link is external)
Contact: USDA Farm to School Grant Program at farmtoschool@fns.usda.gov(link sends e-mail)
Description: Provides funding to groups that initiate or implement farm to school programs.
Amount: Varies
Matching Requirement: 25% match
Special Requirements: Schools eligible for planning & implementation grants. Producers, producer networks, and agencies eligible for support service & training grants.
Application Period: Closed for 2017 funding period

Farmer Grants

Agency: Northeast SARE
Type: Grant
Source: Nonprofit
Website: nesare.org/Grants/Get-a-Grant/Farmer-Grant(link is external)
Contact: Carol Delaney at 802-229-2096 (Mon, Fri), 802-656-0697 (Tues, Wed, Thurs), or Carol.Delaney@uvm.edu(link sends e-mail).
Description: Provides funding to "commercial producers who have an innovative idea they want to test using a field trial, on-farm demonstration, marketing initiative, or other technique."
Matching Requirement: 
Special Requirements: Producers must have a technical advisor that is an extension agent, crop adviser, or another professional. 
Application Period: Closed until December 2017

Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund

Agency: Farmer Veteran Coalition
Type: Grant 
Source: Non for profit
Website: farmvetco.org/about-us/our-programs/farming-fellowship/(link is external)
Contact: Farmer Veteran Coalition at 530-756-1395
Description: This fund is for veterans who are getting started in farming or ranching. The monies of this fund are not given directly to the farmers, but instead to third parties for the purchase of items essential for getting started in farming and ranching such as equipment. 
Amount:
Matching Requirement: 
Special Requirements: 1) Applicants must have served or are currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, 2) for veterans, applicant must have had a honorable discharge, 3) for active service members, must have letter of command support, 4) all applicants must have must have a farm plan, 5) all applicants must be willing to participate fully in the fellowship program activities such as reporting progress, mentoring other aspiring veteran farmers, and representing the Farmer Veteran Coalition at events, 5) all applicants must have a desire to make a positive impact on the veteran community involved in farming.
Application Period: Closes 3/20/2017

Fund a Farmer Grants

Agency: Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT)
Type: Grant
Source: Nonprofit
Website: fundafarmer.org/grant-guidelines/(link is external)
Contact: Lisa Isenhart, FACT’s Humane Farming Program Manager at 773-525-4952 or  grants@foodanimalconcerns.org(link sends e-mail)
Description: Funds grants for raising animals humanely. Two types of projects are eligible, (1) Animal Welfare Certification Projects; (2) Pasture Improvement Projects. 
Amount: Up to $2,500
Matching Requirement: None
Special Requirements: Farms must be animal welfare-oriented.
Application Period: Closed until November 2017

Kickstarter (online fundraising)

Agency: Kickstarter
Type: Grant
Source: Crowdfunding
Website: kickstarter.com (link is external)
Contact:
Description: Raise funds for any project by attracting online donations.
Amount: Any amount
Matching Requirement: None
Special Requirements:
Application Period: Anytime

Local Food Promotion Program Implementation Grants

Agency: USDA-AMS
Type: Grant
Source: Federal
Website: https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/grants/lfpp(link is external)
Contact: USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service at 202-720-2731 or any of the following grant writing specialist: Kim Harmon at Kim.Harmon@ams.usda.gov(link sends e-mail), Velma Lakins at Velma.Lakins@ams.usda.gov(link sends e-mail), Zoemi Santiago at Zoemi.Santiago@ams.usda.gov(link sends e-mail).
Description: Helps to fund the establishment or expansion of a "local or regional food business enterprise."
Amount: $100,000 - $500,000
Matching Requirement: 25% match
Special Requirements: Eligible entities may apply if they support local and regional food business enterprises that process, distribute, aggregate, or store locally or regionally produced food products.
Application Period: Closed for 2017

Local Food Promotion Program Planning Grants

Agency: USDA-AMS
Type: Grant
Source: Federal
Website: https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/grants/lfpp(link is external)
Contact: USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service at 202-720-2731 or any of the following grant specialists: Kim Harmon at Kim.Harmon@ams.usda.gov,Velma(link sends e-mail) Lakins at Velma.Lakins@ams.usda.gov(link sends e-mail), Zoemi Santiago at Zoemi.Santiago@ams.usda.gov(link sends e-mail).
Description: Helps fund the planning stages of a "local or regional food business enterprise"
Amount: $25,000 - $100,000
Matching Requirement: 25% match
Special Requirements: Eligible entities may apply if they support local and regional food business enterprises that process, distribute, aggregate, or store locally or regionally produced food products.
Application Period: Closed for 2017

Maryland Agriculture and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation (MARBIDCO)

Agency: MARBIDCO
Type: Grants and Loans
Source: State
Website: marbidco.org/business/business_assistance.html(link is external)
Contact: Stephen McHenry, 410-267-6807 www.marbidco.org(link is external)
Description: MARBIDCO is a quasi-public economic development organization chartered by the State of Maryland and headquartered in Annapolis.  Its mission is to help Maryland's (typically small and family owned) farm, forestry, and seafood businesses to prosper through the provision of targeted financial and other services that helps retain existing resource-based industry production and commerce, promote rural entrepreneurship, and nurture emerging or expanding agricultural enterprises.
Amount: 
Matching Requirement: 
Special Requirements: Depends on type of loan or grant
Application Period: Variable

Organic Certification Cost Share Programs

Agency: USDA-AMS
Type: Grant
Source: Federal
Website: ams.usda.gov/services/grants/occsp
Contact: Rita Meade, OCCSP Coordinator at 202-260-8636 or Rita.Meade@ams.usda.gov(link sends e-mail)
Description: Helps fund part of the cost of organic certification
Amount: Up to 75% of certification cost, not to exceed $750
Matching Requirement: 25% match
Special Requirements: 
Application Period: Opens March 2017

Organic Farming Research Foundation

Agency: Organic Farming Research Foundation
Type: Grant
Source: Nonprofit
Website: ofrf.org/Fall-2016-Request-for-Proposals
Contact: Organic Farming Research Foundation at 831-426-6006 or info@ofrf.org(link sends e-mail)
Description: OFRF offers funding for research on organic farming and food systems and the dissemination of these research results to organic farmers and the greater agricultural and research communities. Proposals must involve farmers or ranchers in project design and implementation and must take place on certified organic land, ideally on working organic farms or ranches.
Amount: Up to $15,000
Matching Requirement: 
Special Requirements: 
Application Period: Closed until fall 2017

Partnership Grants

Agency: Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE)
Type: Grant
Source: Nonprofit
Website: nesare.org/Grants/Get-a-Grant(link is external)
Contact: Carol Delaney, Farmer Grant specialist at 802-656-0697 or  carol.delaney@uvm.edu(link sends e-mail)
Description: "Partnership Grants are reserved for agricultural service providers--extension staff, nonprofits, consultants, state departments of agriculture, and others working in the agricultural community--who want to conduct on-farm demonstrations, research, marketing, and other projects with farmers as active cooperators."
Amount: Up to $15,000
Matching Requirement: 
Special Requirements: 
Application Period: Closed until fall 2017

Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Loan & Grants

Agency: USDA Rural Development
Type: Grant
Source: Federal
Website: rd.usda.gov/programs-services/rural-energy-america-program-renewable-energy-systems-energy-efficiency(link is external)
Contact: Scott Collins, Acting State Director for USDA Rural Development at 315-477-6400
Description: The Rural Energy for America 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."
Amount: Up to $20,000
Matching Requirement: 
Special Requirements: 50% of gross income must come from the agricultural operation.
Application Period: Closed for 2017

Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR)

Agency: USDA-NIFA
Type: Grant
Source: Federal
Website: nifa.usda.gov/program/small-business-innovation-research-program-sbir (link is external)
Contact: Scott Dockum, USDA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program Coordinator 202-720-6346 at sdockum@ny.usda.gov
(link sends e-mail)
Description: Awards grants to small businesses to partake in research which could be of benefit to the public. American-owned, independently operated, for-profit businesses with 500 employees or fewer. Looking for "innovative ideas and technology, resulting in more jobs and long-term commercial value"
Amount: Phase I: Up to $100,000
Matching Requirement: 
Special Requirements: 
Application Period: Opens June 2017

Value Added Producers Grants

Agency: USDA Rural Development
Type: Grant
Source: Federal
Website: rd.usda.gov/programs-services/value-added-producer-grants(link is external)
Contact: Scott Collins, Acting State Director at 315-477-6400
Description: "The VAPG program helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of bio-based, value-added products. Generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities, and increasing producer income are the goals of this program. You may receive priority if you are a beginning farmer or rancher, a socially-disadvantaged farmer or rancher, a small or medium-sized farm or ranch structured as a family farm, a farmer or rancher cooperative, or are proposing a mid-tier value chain. Grants are awarded through a national competition. Each fiscal year, applications are requested through a notice published in the Federal Register and through an announcement posted on Grants.gov."
Amount: Up to $75,000 for planning grants and $250,000 for working grants.
Matching Requirement: 50% of total project cost
Special Requirements: 
Application Period: Closed for 2017

 

LOANS

Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Loans

Agency: USDA-FSA
Type: Loan
Source: Federal
Website: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/farm-loan-programs/beginning-farmers-and-ranchers-loans/index(link is external)
Contact: Tioga County Farm Service Agency at 607-565-2514
Description: The Farm Service Agency Loans for Beginner Farmers and Ranchers are aimed to help those who have not been operating for less than 10 years and owns an operation that is 30% of the typical size in America. The "Farm Ownership loans can provide access to land and capital. Operating loans can assist beginning farmers in become prosperous and competitive by helping to pay normal operating or family living expenses; open doors to new markets and marketing opportunities; assist with diversifying operations; and so much more. Through the Microloan programs, beginning farmers and ranchers have an important source of financial assistance during the start-up years."
Amount: Ownership and operating loans: $300,000; Microloans: $50,000
Matching Requirement: 
Special Requirements: Depends on type of loan. You will need to refer to the website or speak with your local FSA representative. The ownership loans should not exceed 45% of the purchase price or appraisal value of the ranch or farm.
Application Period: Ongoing

Disaster Loans

Agency: USDA Small Business Administration
Type: Loan
Source: Federal
Website: sba.gov/loans-grants/see-what-sba-offers/sba-loan-programs/disaster-loans(link is external)
Contact: US Small Business Administration, Answer Desk PH: 800-827-5722, Disaster Loans PH: 800-659-2955, or answerdesk@sba.gov(link sends e-mail)
Description: SBA Disaster Loan program is open to businesses, homeowners, nonprofit organizations, and renters for the use towards things like repair and replacement of things such as business assets, equipment, inventory, machinery, personal property, and real estate in a declared disaster event.
Amount: Up to $2 million
Matching Requirements: 
Special Requirements: Must be in regards to a declared disaster.
Application Period: Ongoing

Emergency Farm Loans

Agency: USDA FSA
Type: Loan
Source: Federal
Website: fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/farm-loan-programs/emergency-farm-loans/index(link is external)
Contact: 
Description: "The Emergency loan program is triggered when a natural disaster is designated by the Secretary of Agriculture or a natural disaster or emergency is declared by the President under the Stafford Act. These loans help producers who suffer qualifying farm related losses directly caused by the disaster in a county declared or designated as a primary disaster or quarantine area. Also, farmers located in counties that are contiguous to the declared, designated, or quarantined area may qualify for Emergency loans. 
For production losses, a 30% reduction in a primary crop in a designated or contiguous county is required. Losses to quality, such as receiving a 30% reduced price for flood damaged crops, may be eligible for assistance, too."
Amount: Up to $500,000 but depends on actual production or physical loss.
Matching Requirements: 
Special Requirements: Declaration of a natural disaster or emergency such as in the case after a tornado, flood, drought, or quarantine. Must be repaid within 12 months.
Application Period: After a declaration of a natural disaster or emergency.

Farm Loans

Agency: MidAtlantic Farm Credit
Type: Loan
Source: Private
Website: mafc.com/loans/farm-loans/(link is external)
Contact: https://online.farmcredit.net/InformationRequest/request.aspx?ACA=031(link is external)
Description: Whether you need money for fertilizer, seed purchases, labor costs or animal purchases, a farm operating loan can help you manage your purchases more efficiently.
Amount: 
Matching Requirements: 
Special Requirements: 
Application Period: Ongoing

Farm Operating Loan

Agency: USDA FSA
Type: Loan
Source: Federal
Website: fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/farm-loan-programs/farm-operating-loans/index(link is external)
Contact: 
Description: "FSA’s Direct Farm Operating loans are a valuable resource to start, maintain and strengthen a farm or ranch. For new agricultural producers, FSA direct farm operating loans provide an essential gateway into agricultural production by financing the cost of operating a farm. All FSA direct loans are financed and serviced by the Agency through local Farm Loan Officers and Farm Loan Managers. The funding comes from Congressional appropriations as part of the USDA budget."
Amount: $300,000
Matching Requirements: 
Special Requirements: 
Application Period: Ongoing

Farm Ownership Loans

Agency: USDA FSA
Type: Loan
Source: Federal 
Website: fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/farm-loan-programs/farm-ownership-loans/index(link is external)
Contact: 
Description: The Farm Service Agency Loans "help farmers and ranchers become owner-operators of family farms, improve and expand current operations, increase agricultural productivity, and assist with land tenure to save farmland for future generations." No previous ownership of farm or ranch is required. 
Amount: Up to $300, 000
Matching Requirements: 
Special Requirements: Loan will not exceed 45% of the farm or ranch purchase price or appraisal value. Also, financing from FSA and other sources must not exceed 95% of the purchase price.
Application Period: Ongoing

Farm Storage Facility Loan Program (FSFL)

Agency: USDA FSA
Type: Loan
Source: Federal
Website: fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/price-support/facility-loans/farm-storage/index(link is external)
Contact: 
Description: The FSA Farm Storage and Facility loans are geared towards producers looking to build or upgrade any facilities that would be used for storage of commodities as well as portable units and trucks used in the handling of the commodities in storage.
Amount: Up to $100,000
Matching Requirements: 
Special Requirements: 
Application Period: Ongoing

Kiva Zip Loans

Agency: Kiva 
Type: Loan 
Source: Crowdfunding 
Website: https://borrow.kiva.org/borrow 
(link is external)
Contact: Kiva Headquarters at 828-479-5482 or https://www.kiva.org/help?contactus=1
(link is external)
Description: Raise funds for a 0% interest loan by attracting online lenders. 
Amount: $25 - $10,000 
Matching requirement: None 
Special requirements: 
Application period: Anytime

Maryland Agriculture and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation (MARBIDCO)

Agency: MARBIDCO
Type: Grants and Loans
Source: State
Website: marbidco.org/business/business_assistance.html
Contact: Stephen McHenry, 410-267-6807 www.marbidco.org(link is external)
Description: MARBIDCO is a quasi-public economic development organization chartered by the State of Maryland and headquartered in Annapolis.  Its mission is to help Maryland's (typically small and family owned) farm, forestry, and seafood businesses to prosper through the provision of targeted financial and other services that helps retain existing resource-based industry production and commerce, promote rural entrepreneurship, and nurture emerging or expanding agricultural enterprises.
Amount: 
Matching Requirement: 
Special Requirements: Depends on type of loan or grant
Application Period: Variable

Microloan Program

Agency: USDA Small Business Administration
Type: Loan
Source: Federal
Website: sba.gov/loans-grants/see-what-sba-offers/sba-loan-programs/microloan-program(link is external)
Contact: US Small Business Administration, Answer Desk PH: 800-827-5722 or answerdesk@sba.gov(link sends e-mail)
Description: The SBA Microloan program provides loans to help small businesses cover start-up and expansion fees. These loans can be used as working capital and for things like equipment, fixtures, inventory, and supplies.
Amount: Up to $50,000
Matching Requirements: 
Special Requirements: 
Application Period: Ongoing

Microloans Program

Agency: USDA FSA
Type: Loan
Source: Federal
Website: fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/farm-loan-programs/microloans/index(link is external)
Contact: 
Description: The USDA FSA Microloan program is aimed at helping new, nontraditional, and small farms with participating in direct and wholesale marketing. In terms of the Direct Farm Ownership microloans can help with down payments on a farm, improving farm facilities, and SWCD projects. Direct Farm Operating microloans can be used towards the cost of things like beekeeping equipment, fencing, fertilizer, GAP certification, irrigation, land rent, livestock, maple syrup equipment, milking equipment, organic certification, OSHA compliance, and seeds. 
Amount: Up to $50,000
Matching Requirements: 
Special Requirements: 1) Must have no criminal record, 2) must have ability to obtain legal counsel, 3) have a good credit record, 4) be a US citizen, 5) have no forgiveness of previous debt, 6) owe no taxes to the IRS, or 7) have a previous violation to any FSA crop insurance.
Application Period: Ongoing

Rural Energy For America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Loans & Grants

Agency: USDA Rural Development
Type: Loan
Source: Federal
Website: rd.usda.gov/programs-services/rural-energy-america-program-renewable-energy-systems-energy-efficiency(link is external)
Contact: 
Description: The Rural Energy for America program provides loans and grants to help agricultural producers and small businesses of rural areas invest to purchase and install renewable energy systems and/or improve their energy efficiency.
Amount: Loans: greater than $5,000. Grants up to $500, 000
Matching Requirements: Loans: at least 25% of total cost. Grants: 75% of total project costs. Loan and Grant Combined: at least 25% of total project costs.
Special Requirements: 1) Agricultural producers must have at least 50% of gross income coming from their agricultural operation. 2) Small business must be in one of the define eligible regions. 3) Applicants must not owe any money to the federal government. 
Application Period: Loans: Ongoing. Grants under $20,000: March 31st 2017. Unrestricted grants up to $500,000: March 31st 2017.

Small Business Loans

Agency: USDA Small Business Administration
Type: Loan
Source: Federal
Website: sba.gov/loans-grants/see-what-sba-offers/sba-loan-programs/general-small-business-loans-7a(link is external)
Contact: US Small Business Administration, Answer Desk PH: 800-827-5722 or answerdesk@sba.gov(link sends e-mail)
Description: Primarily, SBA is a guarantor of loans made by private and other institutions. These loans are geared towards helping businesses out and are determine on things such as ownership, place of operation, and practices. 
Amount: Up to $5 million
Matching Requirements: 
Special Requirements: 1) Must be for profit, 2) be a small business as defined by SBA, 3) do business in the USA, 4) have invested equity, 5) have a demonstrated need for a loan, 6) must the funds solely for the business, and 7) don't owe any money to the US government.
Application Period: Ongoing

Youth Loans

Agency: USDA FSA
Type: Loan
Source: Federal
Website:fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/farm-loan-programs/youth-loans/index(link is external)
Contact: 
Description: The FSA Youth Loans are directed towards youth who are involved in 4-H, FFA, and other agricultural youth groups. These loans provides funds which allow youth to start and operate projects aimed at producing income. All projects require an adult adviser with appropriate experience to oversee the youth projects and give help whenever needed.
Amount: Up to $5,000
Matching Requirements: 
Special Requirements: 1) An adult adviser with appropriate experience to oversee the project, 2) involvement in 4-H, FFA, or another agricultural youth group, 3) Parental consent for the loan closing, 4) project must contain an agricultural and educational component, 5) project must make enough to repay loan an interest.
Application Period: Ongoing

Other Possible Sources:

MARBIDCO  
http://www.marbidco.org/applications.html(link is external)

Maryland Department of Agriculture  
http://mda.maryland.gov/resource_conservation/Pages/financial_assistance...(link is external)

Note: We made every effort to be comprehensive, but these programs are constantly changing. Check for new offerings and/or changes in application dates and requirements. This information updated

More Resources

University of Maryland Extension Resources

Other State Extension Resources

Industry Resources

Agencies, Associations and Government Resources

  • The Small Business Administration (SBA) – offers numerous loan programs to assist small businesses. Note: it is primarily a guarantor of loans made by private and other institutions.
    http://www.sba.gov/financing/index.html(link is external)

  • USDA Farm Service Agency – makes direct and guaranteed farm ownership and operating loans to family-sized farmers who cannot obtain commercial credit from a bank, farm credit system institution, or other lender.
    http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/

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