You may have heard of the USDA’s Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP) before. This initiative is designed to support small businesses in rural areas. Yet when producers try to apply for this funding, they come up short. As it turns out, farmers aren’t eligible to apply to the USDA for the funding. Instead, they have to apply directly to an intermediary organization called a Microenterprise Development Organizations (MDO).
An MDO can be a fund or NGO that promotes small business needs in a designated region of the U.S. MDOs apply to the USDA for RMAP funding. If an MDO successfully secures funding from RMAP (generally between $50K-$500K total), farmers can then apply to the MDO for funding (generally in the form of loans).
For example, farmers in Virginia cannot apply to the Rural Development office for RMAP, but they can apply to Virginia Foodshed Capital – an RMAP recipient and a Community Development Financial Institution – for operating, land, and conservation loans for their operations. H
If you’re wondering where to find your local MDO, one place you can start is checking out this map of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI). These organizations are specifically geared to support small businesses in local regions, and may have available funding for farmers (RMAP or otherwise). If you don’t see a local CDFI near you, the next step would be to call your USDA Rural Development office to ask about local MDOs that have successfully secured RMAP funding. While we have yet to find a map showing MDOs specifically, we’ve found that a few calls can get the job done!