Farmers interested in non-typical funding to help their bottom lines should check out Sustainable Agriculture, Research and Education (SARE) producer grants, says Henry English, director of the Small Farm Program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Producer grants are designed to increase knowledge about practices that are “economically viable, environmentally sound and socially responsible.” Any farmer or rancher or farmer/rancher organization is eligible for producer grants ranging from $500 to $15,000, says English.

The proposal submission deadline for 2008 projects is Nov. 15.

Producers must complete a proposal describing their projects and explaining how they will help other producers understand and adopt sustainable agriculture practices. Projects may be funded for up to two years for a project maximum of $10,000 per individual or $15,000 for a producer organization.

Producer grant funds can be used for the following:

• Costs of sampling and sample analysis.

• Materials and supplies needed for a project.

• Outreach expenses such as a field day.

• Travel (maximum of 44 cents per mile) for the project.

• Hired labor for labor that farmers cannot do.

• Labor of farmers for project activities above normal farming duties.

• Refreshments at field days.

All instructions, guidelines, program goals and criteria for a grant proposal are in the Producer Grant Program 2008 Call for Proposals document on the Web at www.southernsare.uga.edu/currentcalls/producers.doc.

Proposals must be submitted online on the SSARE Producer Grant Online Proposal Submission Web site. “But, farmers or ranchers without Internet access can have their Extension associate, county agent, NRCS representative or anyone of their choosing submit their proposal,” says English.

Links from the SARE site take producers to an Index of the 2007 Active Producer Projects. “Some of the 43 projects are similar to ongoing Arkansas projects,” says English, “but few Arkansas farmers apply for the grant.”

Projects range from small-scale rabbit production and marketing in Alabama ($10,000) to sustainable low-cost heating for season-extension structures to networking sheep and goat producers.

In the row crop area, a cotton farmer received a grant to set aside strips of native vegetation for habitat for beneficial insects in one of his cotton fields. The net income on the experimental field was the same as on other fields because of the money saved by not spraying, says English.

Sustainable agriculture is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as an agriculture system that: achieves the integration of natural biological cycles and controls; promotes and renews soil fertility and the natural resource base; optimizes the management and use of on-farm resources; reduces the use of nonrenewable resources and purchase production inputs; minimizes adverse impacts on health, safety, wildlife, water quality and the environment; provides adequate and dependable farm income; and promotes opportunity in family farming and farm communities.

Producers interested in a SARE grant should begin at the SARE Web site http://www.southernsare.uga.edu/currentcalls/producer.doc and follow the links for information on proposal requirements, what grants cover, proposal focus areas, and tips on writing and preparing a proposal.