2021 Available Program Funding: Varies by state.

Grant Size: $15,000 Individual Farmers / $20,000 Farmer Organization

Project Period:

September: Calls for Producer Grant Proposals are released.

November: Producer Grant Proposals due.

March: Producer Grants awarded

Applicant Requirement:

Full or part-time farmers with at least $1,000 of annual income

The Southern Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education (SARE) producer grant program is one of many resources in which the USDA assists producers support sustainable agricultural practices through research and education. Since 1994, this funding has allowed farmers to undertake their own research initiatives. The profitability of farmers, the ethical use of land, and the quality of life in communities are all elements in the implementation of sustainable agriculture methods. Projects under the SSARE grant should be developed to solve agricultural impediments and challenges while also providing knowledge on what works (and doesn’t) so that other farmers and ranchers facing similar situations can benefit from the project’s findings. 

Farmers interested in applying must conduct on-farm sustainable agricultural research to solve farming and ranching challenges. The program applicant must include an identifiable proposal (proposed project) that satisfies the requirements of allowable expenses as detailed below. Additionally, these projects must include one cooperator which can be other farmers, researchers, extension agents, governmental or non-governmental organizations, or others who cooperate in project planning, data collection and outreach of results. Applicants should be able to share the results of his or her initiative with the rest of the agricultural community through the outreach component.

Who is Eligible to Apply?

Applications must be submitted from an individual farmer/rancher or farmer/rancher organization, such as a cooperative. Proposals from NGOs, other community groups or researchers are not accepted. At least $1,000 of annual income from the operation must be documented. There are no restrictions on farm size or the length of time an applicant has been farming.

Important! Farmer organizations should be comprised primarily of farmers/ranchers and must have a majority farmer representation on their governing board to qualify

Where to Get Help

Help with the grant applications can be obtained from the Southern SARE website: https://southern.sare.org/

How Can I Use the Funds?

Producer Grants are for farmers who are already well-established in their farming business. The funds provided through this grant must be utilized strictly for research and study, excluding the use of funds for unrelated farm operational activities. The following are examples of how grant funding can and cannot be used:

Allowable Expenses include:

Costs of sampling and sample analysis. This can include in-field data collection or lab data analysis.
Renting equipment needed for the project. The rental must not extend beyond the project’s timetable.

Materials and supplies needed for the project. The materials and supplies must remain within the scope of the project and be a reasonable request relative to the research being conducted.
Travel needed for the project, which can include lodging, mileage and meals.

Hiring labor needed to effectively conduct and complete the project within the proposed timetable. Hired labor must remain within the scope of the project and be a reasonable salary request.
Non-allowable Expenses include:

Starting a farm, NGO, business or other community organization, or expanding an existing farm, NGO, business or other community organization.

Providing any kind financial support relative to the operation of the farm, NGO, business of community organization. Providing support of any kind for capital investments or permanent farm improvements.

Any item that has permanent use beyond the life of the grant project is not allowed. Breakfasts, lunches or other full meals for the project’s outreach plan, or educational/resource event or program.

Testing of commercial products. Products must be explored in broad generalizations.

How are Projects Evaluated?

After a SARE grant proposal deadline has passed, grant proposals are reviewed by outside technical reviewers. Technical reviewers use a weighted approach with a maximum score of 100 to evaluate the proposals as high priority, fundable with revisions, marginal financing, or nonfundable. The higher the score, the more likely the project is to get funded.

After the reviews are finished, they are forwarded to the appropriate review committee of the Southern SARE Administrative Council, which examines the rankings and comments and selects applications for funding recommendation. Finally, the Administrative Council votes on the slate of ideas presented by the review committees and authorizes funding proposals. Although the Administrative Council decides the ultimate funding decisions, the technical reviewers’ preliminary work informs those judgments.