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California Underserved and Small Producers Program (CUSP)

In partnership with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, CUSP is a program designed to provide assistance to local small and underserved producers.

California Underserved and Small Producers Program Overview

In partnership with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and multiple local partner organizations, the goal of the CUSP program is to provide outreach, informational services, and technical assistance to local producers to increase the number of economic and drought relief grant applications and awards. As well as increase awareness and access to all available resources, which can assist local small and underserved producers struggling with the drought’s lasting effects. Direct assistance is provided to farmers and ranchers who need support applying for drought relief grant programs and assistance with business planning and marketing strategies. Another component of CUSP is to increase land access for underserved producers and ranchers looking for land rentals and to provide technical assistance during this process.

Grant Opportunities: Economic & Drought Relief Grants

The Ventura County Resource Conservation District offers direct financial support to farmers who have experienced losses due to the drought. The covered expenses and eligibility requirements are listed on the Ventura RCD Drought Relief Funds page. Award amounts are from $2,500 to $20,000 per farmer. The application is NOW OPEN. Applications will be received, and awards will be available on a rolling basis. Application support is available at no cost.

The Asian Business Institute and Resource Center (ABIRC) also offers a drought relief grant to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers within California. The application is NOW OPEN and closes on October 31st, 2023. View their official post here, which includes eligibility requirements and covered costs for the grant. Application support is available at no cost to the farmer or rancher through Sierra RCD or ABIRC. If you have direct questions for ABIRC, they can be contacted by email [email protected] or by phone at 559-402-0067.

Bricmont Hardship Assistance Fund, administered by CCOF, provides direct financial assistance exclusively to organic producers who suffer financial losses or drought-related hardships. The application is NOW OPEN.

The American Farmland Trust (AFT) 2022-23 Brighter Future Fund aims to provide grants of up to $5,000 directly to farmers and ranchers who are BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and/or women. The grant guidelines can be found here Brighter Future Fund Guidelines and the Application Link. The application period is now closed, and the next round is TBA.

Programs

The CDFA Healthy Soils Program provides financial incentives to California growers and ranchers to implement conservation management practices that improve soil health. Planning and application support is available. Future rounds are TBA.

The California State University, Fresno, Center for Irrigation Technology (CIT) Advanced Pumping Efficiency Program (APEP) aims to educate and promote electric savings through better, more efficient energy and water use. The program focuses on electrical use of non-residential, PG&E electric or natural gas account that is primarily used for pumping water for the following: production agriculture; landscape or turf irrigation; municipal purposes, including potable and tertiary-treated water, but excluding pumps used for industrial processes, raw sewage, or secondary-treated sewage. Rebates for pump efficiency tests are paid directly to participating pump test companies. Tests are available for working, electric- or natural gas-powered agricultural or large turf water pumps. Participating in a pump efficiency test will result in a $100 rebate, covering half the $200 test cost. Note that tests are not available to fulfill the requirements of any public or quasi-public agency or in relation to a real estate transaction. However, participants in the PG&E AG-ICE program are specifically eligible for all components of APEP. For additional information, visit the APEP About Us page or call the direct line at 559-278-8664.

Financing and Business Support

California FarmLink is certified as a Community Development Financial Institution focused on sustainable and organic agriculture as well as economic and environmental resilience. Type of loans available include: Starter Loans (new businesses), Operating Loans, Term Loans (for Equipment, Conservation, Orchard Development, etc), Land Loans, and Line of Credit. Farmers may contact CFL directly to inquire about financing or consult with SRCD for business and financial planning support to facilitate lending inquiries at CFL or other institutions.

USDA-FSA Farm Loan Programs offer loans to assist farmers and ranchers with starting, expanding, or maintaining a family farm. These loan programs include: Operating Loans (both Direct and Microloan), Ownership Loans (Direct, Microloan, Direct Joint Financing, and Down Payment), and Emergency Loans (Amount of Actual Loss). Also includes Native American Tribal Loans and Youth Loans. Application forms, eligibility, and loan terms information can be found on their site.

SBA-Economic Injury Disaster Loans is provided by the Small Business Administration for U.S. agriculture businesses with 500 or fewer employees, small businesses, or nonprofit organizations. Must have suffered substantial economic injury, or substantial economic injury directly related to COVID-19 pandemic COVID-19 EIDL Loan.

Conservation Planning and Support Services

Regenerative Farming Support

SRCD, in partnership with AFT, is available to perform environmental evaluations of client farming sites to facilitate natural resource conservation planning services. Farmers can receive conservation planning support at no cost and will be able to apply for NRCS implementation resources for new practices. NRCS application support is available.

Carbon Farming Planning is available for all working lands in partnership with the Carbon Cycle Institute and the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts. CFPs are an important step in the BMP planning process and can provide long-term benefits for drought tolerance and water use efficiency, as well as reducing costs of soil applications.

Soil and Water Conservation Planning Services include CDFA HSP and CDFA SWEEP applications whenever reasonable and useful in order to maximize available resources for investment in local regenerative agriculture practices adoption. Farmers interested in developing Demonstration Projects for soil and water conservation are encouraged to consult with SRCD to support these efforts.

Pollinator Support Services are available from various sources to encourage the adoption and implementation of best management practices for increased biodiversity and environmental stewardship. Farmers and Ranchers interested in these programs should inquire about the availability of plant source materials, equipment sharing programs, supporting practices funding, and implementation resources.

Contact Us

Small ranchers and farmers can directly benefit from the services and assistance that we offer through the California Underserved and Small Producers program. Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have about the program or services we offer. We are here to help you and look forward to hearing from you soon.

CUSP Program Manager: Karin Roux

Contact Information: [email protected]