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Applicants have until Dec. 20, 2021, to apply for the program offered by the High Desert Food & Farm Alliance (HDFFA). .

RAMONA MCCALLISTER - Farmers and ranchers may apply for up to $4,000 in grant funds to put towards infrastructure upgrades, equipment purchases, professional development and/or technical assistance.

Local farmers and ranchers located in Central Oregon are now able to apply for an On-Farm Efficiency Grant, the newest program offered by the High Desert Food & Farm Alliance (HDFFA).

Farmers and ranchers may apply for up to $4,000 in grant funds to put towards infrastructure upgrades, equipment purchases, professional development, and/or technical assistance. The goal of this new project is to invest in increasing the ability of Central Oregon producers to overcome shocks and strains on their operations by providing direct farm investments.

"After a really bumpy year for many of our partners still feeling the impact of COVID disruptions, compounded by severe drought and irrigation cuts, we are excited to be able to invest in projects that will build resilience for the producers growing our food and nourishing our communities," commented Annie Nichols, Agricultural Support Manager for the HDFFA.

Crook County OSU Extension Agronomist Mylen Bohle speculated that the grant would be especially helpful for small farmers who are just getting established and focusing on a niche market.

"I think anything that is out there for these economic development grants to help farmers increase their efficiency or do something a little differently on their farm is a very good thing," added Bohle.

The High Desert Food & Farm Alliance will redistribute a total of $40,000 in funding from the USDA under the Community Food Project and Beginning Farmer/Rancher Development Program grants. A majority of the funds were allocated to HDFFA as an extension of one of the grants through the American Rescue Plan Act passed earlier this year. 

Applicants must be located in Crook, Deschutes or Jefferson counties or the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. They must be operational during 2021, primarily sell their products within Central Oregon and be mindful of the environmental impact of their operation. Grants will require a 50% match in funds, which can be provided through cash, in-kind donations and/or labor. Applicants have until Dec. 20, 2021, to apply.

Match means that applicants provide a certain amount of funds towards the project costs. For example, if they are requesting a total of $4,000 to purchase upgraded irrigation supplies, then they would need to provide $2,000 in match (this can be in the form of labor at a rate of at least $30 per hour or, if purchasing additional supplies, providing a copy of the receipts), which equals 50% of the requested grant funds. Applicants may also use other state or private grants as matching funds, but not USDA grant funds, such as NRCS EQIP. USDA loans are allowed to be used for matching funds, but funds awarded by HDFFA cannot be used as repayment to the USDA.

The review committee will score each application based on four main kinds of criteria. These criteria include: whether the project results in an on-farm efficiency improvement; whether the project has a positive environmental benefit; whether the project extends the farmer or rancher's season or productivity rate of food; and whether the budget is clear, accurate and financially sound. Applicants must also show 50% cost share.

Priority points will be provided to traditionally underserved farmers and ranchers, including: black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC+); LGBTQIA2S+; beginning (1-10 years of farm/ranch experience); those living with a disability; and U.S. military veterans. Additional points will also be awarded to HDFFA Partners and applicants who have not received funding from HDFFA in the past.

At least 10 projects will be funded, and funds must be spent by July 1, 2022, with final reporting due July 29, 2022. For grantees, 85% of the total grant amount will be disbursed by Jan. 28, 2022, and the remaining 15% of funds will be disbursed upon completion of the grant reporting requirements.

The farmer or rancher must by mindful of conserving land and water, maintaining healthy soils, and be responsible and transparent in use of chemicals, fertilizers, manure, and farm inputs. Awardees must participate in at least one agriculture-related workshop or course either online or in-person between November 2021 and July 2022, as well as participation in pre-grant and post-grant webinars (dates TBD) to learn about reporting requirements and share on results.

On-Farm Efficiency Grant High Desert Food & Farm Alliance (hdffa.org)


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