Budget Barriers: Types of Ranch and Farm Fence Funding

December 6, 2022

At FarmRaise, we help thousands of agricultural producers connect to funding opportunities to make their upcoming projects more affordable. One project that we get asked a lot about: fencing.

Looking for grant opportunities, loan options or assistance programs to reduce your farm fencing costs? We’ll cover some farm fence solutions like financing options to install or enhance your fences, eligibility requirements and how to apply.

Considerations for Different Types of Farm Fencing

A lot of farm fencing grant and loan options depend on the type of fencing you want to install, how much you’ll need and the purpose of the fence. You’ll be especially more attractive to most lenders and grant programs if your fencing project is related to regenerative agriculture.

If you’re wondering whether you’re more likely to receive funding for a barbed wire fence than a high-tensile wire fence, know that the purpose of your fencing may be what qualifies or disqualifies you for funding - not necessarily the type you’re looking to install. Is your livestock fencing project meant for rotational grazing? Are you looking for fencing to protect your crops from being consumed by wildlife? Do you need interior fencing or perimeter fencing? The programs we mention next will specify fence purposes that are eligible for funding.

Federal Conservation Cost-Share through EQIP and CSP

If you already have perimeter fencing established on your operation, and you’re wanting to invest in cross-fencing to support rotational or regenerative grazing, then you might want to consider applying for conservation cost-share offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). 

The two cost-share programs that the NRCS offers are called the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Together, these programs award over $2 billion per year to farmers and ranchers in financial and technical assistance to support on-farm conservation efforts. 

The money through EQIP and CSP is called “cost-share” because it is intended to cover 75 to 90 percent of the costs of installing a conservation practice. The funds are usually awarded on a reimbursement basis - that means that you have to first install the fence yourself and then submit a request for reimbursement from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

Here’s a hot tip: With EQIP, you have to be accepted into the program before you can install your fence if you want to be reimbursed. Be sure to take a look at EQIP deadlines so you can plan your fencing project around the application timeline. To be clear, EQIP accepts applications year-round, but when they get evaluated for approval depends on your location.

For conservation newbies, we recommend starting with EQIP because it has higher payment rates than CSP. If you’re looking for funding for fencing, here are some example fencing practices and payment rates that you can get funding for through EQIP and CSP.

Fencing through EQIP

  • Through Conservation Practice #382, the NRCS will fund various types of fencing at values ranging from $0.50 to $4.00 per foot.
  • Through Conservation Practice #649, the NRCS will help you install wildlife fencing with markers for $0.10 to 0.20 per foot.

Fencing through CSP

cattle fencing ideas to improve fencing on your farm or ranch | FarmRaise
For federal funding, the purpose of your fencing might matter more than the type of fencing.
  • CSP works through practice “enhancements” in which you get paid to enhance existing conservation practices on the farm. Here are some example enhancements that have to do with fencing:
  • E382A: Incorporating "wildlife friendly" fencing for connectivity of wildlife food resources ($0.20 per foot)
  • E382B: Installing electrical fence offsets and wire for cross-fencing to improve grazing management ($0.50 per foot)

Keep in mind that EQIP and CSP usually only fund cross fencing or fencing to help you deal with erosion. However, your county might have special funds available that could cover other projects like installing fencing that has positive impacts on the environment, wildlife and water quality on your farm. It’s best to submit your application and then have your local USDA rep come out to your farm or ranch for a site visit. During this visit, they can help you think about how to utilize their programs on your land. 

Want help with the paperwork? Check out our application support package

Microloans Offered by the USDA

The USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) has a low interest rate loan program called FSA Operating Microloans. Not to be confused with FSA direct loans (like farm ownership loans), FSA operating microloans are meant to support farming operations like:

  • Purchasing livestock, seed and equipment
  • Covering farm operating costs and family living expenses

The FSA is a lender of last resort. That means two important things for you: First, you’ll need to prove that you’ve gone to another lender who has rejected your farm loan application. Second, it means that the FSA is less concerned with your credit score and more concerned about credit history. The FSA looks into your background as a borrower and why your credit score is the number that it is.

A crucial first step in working with the FSA, is to apply for a farm number. FarmRaise can do that for you. See how FarmRaise works if you’d like to speak to a Farm Funding Advisor about your funding options or how to get a farm number.

 

SARE

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program is a competitive USDA grant program that supports on-farm research and education. You could potentially use a SARE grant for fencing if you plan to use it for a research and education project that focuses on sustainable practices. There a multiple types of SARE grants depending on your region and grant amounts can vary from $10,000 to $400,000. That’s a lot of money to remove any financial barriers that would keep you from installing or improving fencing barriers on your farm. Learn more about how to apply for SARE.

Four SARE Regions Map | FarmRaise
SARE grant amounts depend on which of the four regions you're farming in.

 

Small Business Grants

While we encourage producers to take advantage of their tax dollars by applying for federal money, we also encourage you to supplement those loans and grants with as many funding options as possible.

That’s why we’ve compiled a Farm Funding Library, a database of federal, private and non-profit opportunities that can help you fund your projects. We include opportunities like small business grants. Here are two examples that you can find in our funding library:

  • Each month, Amber Grants for Women awards at least $30,000 to women who run their own businesses.
  • The Farmer Veteran Fellowship is more than a grant opportunity. They provide rescues for farmers with military backgrounds in addition to their grants that range from $1,000 to $5,000.

See more opportunities like these using your FarmRaise Premium Membership.

Farm fencing options in the FarmRaise Farm Funding Library
You can filter through funding opportunities based on your farm projects, like perimeter or interior fencing, in the FarmRaise Farm Funding Library.

Alternative Loans 

In addition to considering the loans from the federal government options and small business grants we’ve shown, you may want to consider some alternative ways to finance. You can also find opportunities like these in our Farm Funding Library.

First, take a look at Steward. It focuses solely on funding and supporting regenerative agricultural operations. They offer flexible loan terms and since they’re dedicated to agriculture and food systems, the people you’ll work with will have a better understanding of your operation than a conventional financial institution.

Since Kiva is a non-profit that helps entrepreneurs access capital, its requirements are broader than the USDA. That means you can request funds for renewable energy sources on the farm, specialty crops, help setting up a booth at the farmers market and, of course, farm fencing. The best part is that Kiva gives you access to 0% interest loans and provides you with marketing tools. It’s worth checking out.

Advice for Beginning Farmers Who Need Fencing

When you start a farm, there are almost too many projects to count. Almost. It’s important to keep track of your projects and expenses, have a business plan and be flexible. You’ll notice that the cost of projects start to add up quickly, so be sure that your farm business is keeping costs low. Thankfully, the USDA offers extra support to beginning farmers and ranchers. EQIP, CSP, SARE and FSA loans all offer priority or special benefits to new farms.

If you’re looking for someone to walk with you as you explore your funding options, give FarmRaise a try. We can help you apply for EQIP, direct you to funding options that best fit your operation and track your farm expenses so you can file your taxes more simply come April.

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