Muir Omini

Need Funding to Build Workforce, Conserve Resources?

by Micki Vandeloo, GPC

As a grant consultant, I have seen ebbs and flows in federal and state grant funding over the past few years, but the agriculture sector may have seen more changes in the grant landscape than most industries. These changes were good news for grant seekers.

A handful of factors are influencing this increase in funding.

First, during the pandemic, many states began (and continue) to offer programs to help farmers and manufacturers of agricultural machinery mitigate the impact of COVID on their businesses and improve local supply chains.

The pandemic also exposed fault lines in how services were distributed and led grant-makers to intensify their focus on previously underserved rural communities and their manufacturers.  

Finally, states and the federal government have begun offering incentives to small processing operations to help them maintain competitiveness and increase the supply of meat and poultry. This is the result of large producers putting undue pressure on small operations and, in many cases, forcing them out of business. This likely will lead to increased equipment purchases by both these facilities and the farmers who supply to them. 

 Members of this Association have an opportunity to secure grant funding. Let’s discuss the specifics, including what a grant is, what activities qualify for funding, what funding is out there, and who is eligible.  

What is a Grant?

Grants are funds paid to a company (non-profit or for-profit) for a project with well-defined outcomes that align with the goals of the organization providing the funding. Grants do not have to be repaid unless the recipient doesn’t do what they said they were going to do when they applied for the grant.  

State economic development departments and federal agencies such as the USDA, National Science Foundation, Department of Labor, and Department of Commerce fund most manufacturing grants. They require economic benefits such as job creation, new technology, and workforce skills enhancement.  

Types of Grants

Organizations that award grants to manufacturers have these focus areas: 

  • Training grants to fund workforce development programs (internal and external) to raise employees’ skill levels. 
  • Export program grants that cover costs that farm equipment manufacturers incur to expand their overseas presence, including:
  • Trade shows/missions.
  • Translation of marketing and instructional materials into other languages.
  • Certifications to sell products in overseas markets.  
  • Grants to offset the impact of trade imbalances, which cover services farm equipment manufacturers acquire to be more competitive on the global marketplace.  
  • Rural business development grants that fund investments in energy efficient equipment and renewable energy to spur economic development, profitability and competitiveness.
  • Market expansion grants to fund equipment, prototyping, and research and development that will help farm equipment manufacturers diversify their markets and expand sales.
  • Business attraction grants, which states offer companies to entice them to pursue large investments and job creation.
  • Grants that fund partnerships between farm equipment manufacturers and educators or workforce development entities to:
  • Create or expand apprenticeship programs.
  • Implement large-scale workforce development initiatives.
  • Create career pathways for underserved individuals. 

Funding Sources

The USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to improve energy efficiency.

Agricultural producers may also apply for new energy efficient equipment and new system loans for agricultural production and processing. Grants of up to $500,000 are offered on a rolling basis. Go to to learn more.

The Connecticut Manufacturing Innovation Fund Voucher Program provides companies access to capital to help them obtain new equipment and the expertise they need to become more efficient, productive, and competitive. First-time applicants receive funding equal to a 1:1 match for the first $25,000 and a 2:1 match for remaining funding up to $75,000. Go to to learn more.  

The Illinois Employer Training Investment Program (ETIP) has funds to distribute through the end of June to support workforce training. Manufacturers may qualify for up to 50 percent reimbursement for full-time, Illinois-based employees. Learn more at

Who Qualifies? 

Most farm equipment manufacturers can apply for any (or all) of the opportunities mentioned here if they meet these criteria:

  • A strong and sound financial history. (It is difficult for startups to receive grants.)
  • Business presence in the state offering the grant.
  • Willingness to meet reporting requirements.
  • A clean legal history, especially for owners and top-level management.

The ability to match a percentage of the grant awarded in cash or other means, if the funder requires it.

In my experience, most manufacturers don’t apply for funding because they don’t know how to get started, which is why I created the Manufacturing Grant Database. (Find it at 

This easy-to-use database allows you to search by federal and state opportunities as well as funders aligned with your projects. The database is updated monthly so you don’t miss out on the ever-changing opportunities available to manufacturers. And, you can get assistance with one click!  

To subscribe, visit and enter the promo code FMA22 to get 20 percent off the monthly subscription price. 

Micki Vandeloo is president of Lakeview Consulting, Inc. The mission of Lakeview Consulting is to ensure economic prosperity for America’s workforce by providing grants to manufacturers that spur economic development. Contact her at Vanderloo also presented a webinar to members on securing grants. Watch it at