The Farm Viability Enhancement Program (FVEP) provides business planning and technical assistance to help established farms identify strategies to increase farm viability such as, new or expanded enterprises, increased productivity, marketing, and/or environmental sustainability. Participants selected to participate in the program may be offered grant funds of $25,000 to $125,000 to implement strategies identified during the planning process in return for signing an agricultural covenant on the farm property to keep it in agricultural use for a 5 or 10-year term. Eligible uses of funds are capital projects on the farm such as building or repairing barns, farmstands or other agricultural buildings, modernizing equipment, or improving food processing capacity.
To be eligible for participation in the Program, a Responder must own, or be a Co-Responder with the owner, who has a legal interest in the land whether by deed or written agreement and given approval to implement the Plan, of at least five (5) acres of land, which must be in active agricultural use and have been managed as a commercial enterprise by the Responder for at least the three (3) previous years. This three (3) year management requirement may be waived if the operator has substantial direct management experience in farming.
- Farms that have previously participated in the Program are eligible to apply if the 5-year or 10-year Covenant has already expired, or the Covenant will expire prior to contract signature (by May 31, 2020).
- If the Respondent/intended grant recipient does not own the land to go under covenant, they must provide a copy of a written signed lease with the landowner that allows permission to for them as lessee to farm the land for a term at least as long as the term of the covenant and that allows any proposed infrastructure to be constructed and used on the property.
- Cranberry operators must own, or be a co-applicant with the owner of, a minimum of twenty (20) acres total, with at least three (3) acres of cranberry bogs currently in production and at least ten (10) acres of non-wetland (upland). Responders must have an NRCS Farm Conservation Plan dated no earlier than 2014, or be actively involved in a planning process with the County Conservation District and, prior to responding to this RFR, have signed a Co-operator’s Agreement with the District showing intent to complete an up-to-date Conservation Plan. The acreage as defined in the Farm Conservation Plan, if any, will govern farm eligibility.
The application deadline has now passed to apply to participate in this program in Fiscal Year 2020. The next open application period is expected to be in the spring of 2020, depending on available funding.