Finding grant funding for a chicken farm is challenging but not impossible when you have the proper resources at your disposal. Grants are allocations of money that do not have to be repaid, making them attractive to both start-up and existing chicken farmers. Because grants are "free money," they are extremely competitive, especially in the current economic climate. According to Andy Andreasen, cooperative extension director in Washington County, Florida, most grants are for groups, though some exist for individuals. He recommends beginning your search for grants for your chicken farm with the United States Department of Agriculture or other government agencies.
The USDA's Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Competitive Grants Program encourages and supports farmers and ranchers in their pursuit of funding for agricultural projects. An entity that is chosen can expect to receive between £65,000 and £195,000 in grant funds, which are to be used, according to the program, "to assure opportunities for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers to successfully acquire, own, operate, and retain farms and ranches; and assure equitable participation in the full range of USDA programs."
In 2007, the U.S. Census Bureau released figures that indicated the average age of farm operators was 57. In an effort to support younger farmers, the federal government funded the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. BFRDP provides funds, £11,856,000 in 2010, for beginning farms. A beginning farm is defined as "one that is operated by one or more operators who have 10 years or less of experience operating a farm or ranch."
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) offers a competitive grants program that was established with the 2008 Farm Bill. The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program focuses on six priority areas including animal health and production of animal products. This grant resource welcomes applications from individuals.
NIFA has partnered with small farm coordinators in every state to provide funding, in the form of grants and guaranteed loans that explore agricultural extension activities and provide operating funds. Since NIFA works closely with local extension service agents, an extension service agent in your community would be a good resource for locating a grant to fund a chicken enterprise.
Most grants require matching funds from the applicant. When approved, be prepared to invest from 10 to 50 per cent of the grant's worth. Grant matches are not always cash. For instance, a local tax abatement, procured for opening and sustaining a chicken farming operation, will normally be considered as matching funds.
Writing the grant application is key to funding. A well-written, comprehensive grant winds its way through the elimination process with ease. Grant writing courses are offered by many colleges and universities. Online courses through Edu2Go are also available. A brief overview of grant writing guidelines, published by Houghton Mifflin Learning Technologies, is also found online.
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