I. Application is made through a Request for Response (RFR) that contains detailed policy information about the Program.
To be eligible for participation in the Program, an applicant must own, or be a co-applicant with the owner of land enrolled in the Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program which must be in active agricultural use and managed as a commercial agricultural enterprise by the Responder for at least the three previous years. Responders must have an NRCS Farm Conservation Plan.
For this first pilot round of applications, only current owners who are successors in title to the owner who received the initial APR payment are eligible, and the original APR must have been closed or recorded on or before 12/31/99.
B. Criteria for Selection
Applications will be evaluated and selected based on the following criteria. They are listed in order of importance.
- Have the highest potential for increased profitability and sustainability as a result of the Commonwealth’s new investment
- Have a significant but reversible risk due to debt, low income, family ownership/control or management problems, or other threats to the continuance of farm operations
- Need assistance with generational farm transfer issues that would be facilitated by the Commonwealth’s investment.
- Clearly defined barriers to ongoing viable farm operations and detail opportunities for resource enhancement, diversification, expansion of production, or marketing improvement that will contribute to continued success of the farm enterprises.
- Demonstrate directly relevant agricultural experience and training of Responders
- Proposed activities in the application meet the purposes of the Program
C. Application Procedure
Any APR farm operator interested in applying to the Program must submit, on a form approved by the Department, a completed application. The application will request at least the following information:
- A full description of the current agricultural activities carried out on the land including the types and quantity of the crops, number of livestock, and/or acreage leased or used by others for agricultural purposes.
- A goals statement by the applicant of how this Program could benefit the economic and environmental viability of the farm.
- A statement of the present financial situation of the farm including the gross farm income.
- A statement identifying any farm debt.
- A statement indicating if any family members receive income from employment other than farm income identified above.
- If the owner is not principally engaged in agricultural activities, a statement must be submitted by the owner regarding the short and long-term plans for keeping the property in agricultural use.
- A map of the property on a United States Geological Survey (USGS) Topographical Map showing the land area to be covered by the viability plan and an aerial photograph with the farm property outlined.
- If is required that the farm operator have an up to date United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources and Conservation Service farm plan
- Authorization for the Department to conduct a field inspection of the land to be covered by the Plan.
Upon receipt of an application, the Department may conduct a field inspection.
II. Application Evaluation and Approval
An advisory committee will evaluate the applications and approve them based on the above-listed criteria. Accepted applicants will be notified in writing of their acceptance into the Program. Orientation meetings are usually held to present detailed information outlining the planning process and the contract process to present awards. Following the orientation, the Department will work with the applicant to prepare a Plan. The Plan will include a resource and economic assessment of the agricultural operation and suggestions for actions to increase the overall viability of the farm developed by a team of advisors working with the farm operator.
Any farmer who has developed an APR Improvement Plan with the Department is eligible to participate in the next phase of the program. This phase involves an agreement between the Department and the farm operator in which the Department would provide funding through a service contract to implement certain strategies contained in the Plan. The Department will fund only those projects which it determines will improve the viability of the agricultural operation and meet the criteria established in the enabling legislation M.G. L. Chapter 20, Section 27.
The Department may offer the participant(s) either of four funding options based on the following guidelines:
- Owners with an APR of any size and up to $50,000 gross farm income may receive up to $25,000
- Owners with over 25 acres under APR and minimum $50,000 gross farm income may receive up to $50,000
- Owners with at least 50 acres under APR and minimum $100,000 gross farm income may receive up to $75,000
- Owners with over 100 acres of APR land and over $150,000 gross farm income may receive up to $100,000.
IV. Final Phase – Closeout
The contract terminates, usually with a year, with the farmer reporting with records and receipts of the expenditures made with funds received from the Program.