In 2018, when the Farm Bill was passed, hemp businesses gained access to government funding sources at federal, state, and local levels. Recently, the USDA announced two grant opportunities for cooperatives (Co-Ops) in rural areas. (Note: A Co-Op is, generally, an organization owned, operated, and democratically controlled by its members. The economic benefits are then equitably distributed among the members proportionately based on participation and use.)
Under the grants, the hemp provisions are minimal and require a valid producer license issued under a USDA-approved plan. Of note, the grants specifically call out for hemp-related projects. While these grants have existed for at least 10 years, the new hemp references mean that federal agencies are anticipating hemp industry participants.
Socially Disadvantaged Groups Grant
Deadline: August 10, 2020
The Socially Disadvantaged Groups Grant has a maximum award of $175,000, and is only eligible to applicants who are:
- Groups of Co-Ops
- Cooperative Development Centers
Applicants must be governed by a majority of individuals who are members of Socially Disadvantaged Groups and must also be providing technical assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Groups in rural areas.
Socially Disadvantaged Groups are defined as a “group whose members have been subjected to racial, ethnic or gender prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities.”
Grant funds may be used towards technical-assistance service (which include items such as feasibility studies, leadership training, business planning, and other strategic plans).
Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program
Deadline: August 3, 2020
The Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program has a maximum award of $200,000, and also has a 25% fund-matching requirement (which is reduced to 5% for Native American tribally controlled colleges and universities with land-grant status under the 1994 Act of Congress.)
Applicants must be a nonprofit corporation or institution of higher education. The grant must be used to fund the creation, expansion, or continued operation of a cooperative development center that serves businesses and individuals in rural areas.
Some items funding can be used for include:
- Data Collection
- Feasibility Studies
- Technical Assistance