Establish an Agricultural Viability Program
Agricultural Viability Programs assist farmers in developing business plans to diversify and modernize their operations. In addition, some states provide funding to help farmers implement their business plans.
The Department of Agriculture must first determine the type of farmers and farms it wishes to assist with an Agricultural Viability Program. Eligibility criteria can target agricultural operations that, for example, are threatened by urban encroachment, are particularly well-suited for direct-to-consumer marketing, serve environmental objectives or have historical significance.
To provide direct assistance to farmers in developing their plans, the State will have to assemble and train advisers from a variety of disciplines, including marketing, finance, management and environmental sciences.
The State also can provide seed money to farmers to assist them with the implementation of their plans. To ensure that the program actually helps preserve farmland, the State should obtain commitments from the farmers in return for the funding. Some states, for example, require farmers to sign an Agricultural Use Only Covenant before receiving funding, with the amount of money calibrated to the length of the covenant.
- Massachusetts' Farm Viability Enhancement Program
Massachusetts' Farm Viability Enhancement Program was created in 1996 to assist farmers with modernizing their operations. The program helps them develop business plans. If the farmer is willing to implement the recommended changes, as well as sign a limited term agricultural-use-only covenant, the Department of Agriculture may make money available to implement the changes. Since the Farm Viability Program was initiated, more than 300 farms have received grant funding and been protected by covenants.
— Massachusetts' Farm Viability Enhancement Program