USDA offers several programs and resources that can assist producers interested in selling products to local schools.
USDA Discovery Tool: Helping Farmers Connect with Resources
USDA has a newly redesigned website to meet the needs of new farmers, women in agriculture, youth, veterans and farms in transition. The site features advice and guidance on important topics for new farm business owners. Topics include writing a business plan, obtaining a loan to grow the business and filing taxes as a new small business owner. By answering a series of questions about their operation, farmers can use the site’s Discovery Tool to build a personalized set of recommendations of USDA programs and services that may meet their needs.
Local Food Promotion Program
The Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) offers grant funds with a 25% match to support the development and expansion of local and regional food business enterprises to increase domestic consumption of, and access to, locally and regionally produced agricultural products, and to develop new market opportunities for farm and ranch operations serving local markets. There are two types of project applications are accepted under LFPP—planning grants and implementation grants. Applicants can apply for either but will receive only one type of grant in the same grant cycle. Complete program information is available at www.ams.usda.gov/services/grants/lfpp.
Guide to USDA Farm to School Funding Opportunities
This resource is a compiled overview of grants and loans currently available to support farm to school activities. It also provides examples of how the program funding has been used for farm to school and includes links directly to each funding opportunity Web page.
Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG)
The Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/ or marketing of bio-based, value-added products. This includes generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities. One of the main goals of this program is to increase producer income. Grants are awarded through a national competition. For questions on how to apply for this grant opportunity please contact the Texas Rural Development Office.
USDA Certification for Small and Very Small Producers of Grass-fed Beef
This USDA program is designed as a verification tool for small and very small producers to certify that animals meet the requirements of the AMS Grass (Forage) Fed Marketing Claim Standard, helping producers differentiate themselves and communicate value to their customers. For this program, USDA is targeting producers that market 49 cattle or less each year. Producers who are certified under the program will receive certificates that allow them to market cattle to slaughter facilities as USDA certified grass-fed, increasing their market value and creating new economic opportunities throughout the supply chain. Complete program information is available at
Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development (BFRDP)
Organizations can apply to BFRDP for grants to provide education, training, technical assistance and outreach for U.S. farmers, ranchers, and managers of non-industrial private forest land who have been farming or ranching for 10 years or less and those who aim to start. Priority will be given to projects that are partnerships and collaborations led by or including non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, and school-based agricultural educational organizations with expertise in new agricultural producer training and outreach. Complete program information and grant application documents are available at www.nifa.usda.gov/fo/beginningfarmersandranchers.cfm.
Farm Storage Facility Loan Program
The Farm Storage Facility Loan Program provides low-interest financing so producers can build or upgrade permanent facilities to store commodities. Eligible commodities include grains, oilseeds, peanuts, pulse crops, hay, honey, renewable biomass commodities, fruits and vegetables. Eligible facility types include grain bins, hay barns and facilities for cold storage. Full program information is available here.
Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program (RCDG)
The primary objective of the RCDG program is to improve the economic condition of rural areas by assisting individuals or entities in the startup, expansion or operational improvement of rural cooperatives and other business entities. Grants are awarded competitively on an annual basis to Rural Cooperative Development Centers who in turn provide technical assistance to individuals and entities. Complete program information and grant application documents are available at: http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/rural-cooperative-development-grant-program.
USDA Support for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers
USDA has a new website that provides a centralized, one-stop resource where beginning farmers and ranchers can explore the variety of USDA initiatives designed to help them succeed. USDA's New Farmers website has in depth information for new farmers and ranchers, including: how to increase access to land and capital; build new market opportunities; participate in conservation opportunities; select and use the right risk management tools; and access USDA education and technical support programs.
Additional information about available resources can be found on USDA's Small and Mid-Sized Farmer Resources webpage and on USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food webpage.
A list of grant programs available through the Texas Department of Agriculture is available at www.texasagriculture.gov/GrantsServices/GrantsandServices.aspx.