USDA grants help ASU Community Partnerships support disadvantaged farmers & ranchers


Adams State University Community Partnerships recently received its third USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) grant this year to aid disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. The latest grant, of $127,000, will support outreach and advocacy over the next year, according to Mary Hoffman, executive director of Community Partnerships.

"The USDA recognizes the value of Community Partnerships' connections with the community and university in supporting its goals," Hoffman explained. "The mission of both Adams State and Community Partnerships is to ultimately raise the standard of living in the San Luis Valley, a goal the USDA shares."

Community Partnerships' other current USDA grants are $75,000 from the USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity program and $37,000 for Focused Business Support.

Connecting with Resources

"Our new Outreach & Advocacy grant will help us reach disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, including military veterans, and connect them with local and statewide resources that can assist them," Hoffman added.

Community Partnerships will form an advisory group and conduct the following activities toward that end:

  1. Assist disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in completing USDA loan and grant applications related to farm ownership and improvements.
  2. Organize and facilitate a mentoring program to help disadvantaged farmers and ranchers build relationships with USDA programs and officials.
  3. Conduct and host workshops that present innovative, agriculture-related conservation practices to disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

Targeting rural poverty

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack noted the StrikeForce grants demonstrates the "USDA is focused not just on places where there has been prosperity recently in rural areas, but also on trying to address the challenge of persistent rural poverty."

Community Partnerships' goal for the StrikeForce grant over the next year is to facilitate the writing and the submission of ten eligible grant proposals to support rural economic development from USDA Colorado Strikeforce areas to USDA.

"Our objective is to identify potential projects, inform more people about USDA grant opportunities, and educate more grant writers regarding how to develop USDA proposals," Hoffman said.

Under this program, proposals may be submitted to such USDA grant programs as REAP (Rural Energy for America Program), the Value Added Grant, and the Rural Business Opportunity Grant.

This endeavor dovetails with another project, recently funded by $15,000 from the Xcel Energy Foundation, to assist San Luis Valley businesses, farmers, and ranchers in reducing costs through energy conservation and renewable energy application.

"Such corporate and private funding is always good for leveraging federal grants," Hoffman noted. For example, Xcel's renewable energy incentives could support a proposal to REAP, which would pay 25 percent of a renewable energy project (solar, biomass, geothermal).

Through the Focused Business Support grant, Community Partnerships is working with two high-risk local businesses. Community Partnerships provides cash flow analyses, marketing support, connections with resources, and recommendations to help them become more stable.

By Julie Waechter