by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
If your New York dairy farm could use professional services to plan for farm transition, investigate the Dairy Forward grant program. Molly Johnston-Heck, regional Farmland for a New Generation manager with American Farmland Trust, provided information in a recent webinar hosted by Cornell Cooperative Extension and AFT.
AFT and Chobani administer the grants of $500 to $5,000, funded by sales of Farmer Batch yogurt and dairy creamer. The funds are intended to hire professionals to plan NY dairy farms in farm transfer and generational succession, general farm business planning, permanent land protection and adopting regenerative farming practices.
“These grants are intended to support dairy farmers who are facing tremendous challenges, such as a weak dairy economy, destruction from weather and an aging farming population,” Johnston-Heck said.
While many farms could use funding for a variety of maintenance and improvement projects, these funds are only for professional services involving farm transition and protection, paid directly to the provider of those services.
The grant application is online at farmland.org/dairy-forward as well as the grant guidelines and an application preview. Johnston-Heck said the latter can make the application process easier.
“It’s really, really helpful to have a Word document that has all the questions you’ll have on the application so you can plan your answers,” she said.
If the selected provider is unable to do the work for some reason, Johnston-Heck said that farmers should email AFT about the problem.
“We can be flexible as long as the project remains within the terms of the agreement,” she said. “Right now, we have by the end of 2021 to have the projects completed. This is really intended for folks who have taken the plunge but haven’t been able to figure out how to afford it.”
The eligibility requirements include a location within NY, selling at least $1,000 of agricultural products in 2020, only one application from each dairy operation, the service provider must be identified, service providers must have appropriate qualifications and grant recipients will be asked to participate in storytelling (but that is not required).
Eligible service providers could include attorneys, certified crop advisors, Extension educators, farm business consultants and Soil & Water Conservation District employees.
The grant is receiving applications now and since it is first come, first served, Johnston-Heck encourages applicants to participate.
“There is no required match for this grant,” Johnston-Heck said. “It can be used in conjunctions with other funds, like the Dairy Acceleration Program.”
She listed examples of projects, including working with an attorney to develop a farm transfer and estate plan that could include a will, healthcare proxy or other legal documents such as an operating or buy/sell agreement and/or a farm business consultant to help with farm business transfer planning.
Another is working with a farm business consultant to develop a plan to improve farm viability by setting business goals, researching processing alternatives, determining potential markets, evaluating financing options or developing a new farm enterprise.
Another is permanent land protection including adopting regenerative practices, farm transfers and succession planning. This may include working with a certified crop advisor, S&WCD employee or other technical service provider “to develop plans for the adoption of conservation practices that promote soil health. These practices could include cover crops, no-till and reduced tillage, prescribed grazing and crop rotations,” Johnston-Heck said.
She added it could also include “professional services associated with conveying a permanent agricultural conservation easement including but not limited to land planning, appraisals, surveys or legal fees.”
To apply, farmers need to visit farmland.org/dairy-forward. For questions, contact Molly Johnston-Heck at email@example.com or 315.565.1538. CCE Farm Business Management specialists can also answer questions about the grant.