Emerging farmers looking to purchase their first farm will soon have another opportunity to apply for grant funding to support their efforts. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Rural Finance Authority (RFA) has announced that a second round of funding for the Down Payment Assistance Grant Program will open for applications on July 1, 2023.
The Minnesota Down Payment Assistance Grant, an initiative supported by the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, offers up to $15,000 for qualified farmers to purchase farmland. To qualify, farmers must earn less than $250,000 per year in gross agricultural sales, and each award must be matched with at least $8,000 of other funding. Applications will remain valid for purchases closing within six months after award approval or until June 30, 2024, whichever is sooner.
The grant opened for its first round of funding this past January, almost instantly accumulating enough applications to meet the waitlist cap. Several changes have been adopted for the second round to ensure more equitable access, including:
- A doubling in grant funding as approved by the state Legislature, from $500,000 to $1 million. The RFA expects to award approximately 66 grants in this funding cycle, dependent on the size of grant requests.
- A guaranteed 30-day application window. Whereas the first round stopped accepting applications once a waitlist of 100 applications was formed, the second round will allow farmers to apply anytime from 9 a.m. on July 1, 2023, through 11:59 p.m. on July 31, 2023. All applications received within this window will be eligible for consideration.
- After the application window closes, all eligible applications will be placed in a randomized lottery to determine the order in which grants are awarded. The lottery drawing will be held in early August, and the RFA will announce award winners in early to mid-August.
Preference for this round of awards will be given to emerging farmers. A full definition of who qualifies as an emerging farmer can be found in the grant’s request for proposals (RFP).
If funding remains after the RFA has awarded grants to all eligible emerging farmer applicants, the RFA will award as many grants as funding allows for to applicants who are not emerging farmers, based on the order of their lottery placement.
Another round of grant funding of $1 million will be available starting July 2024.