All I can tell you is I witnessed a steady stream of farmers coming in and out of FSA and NRCS offices in the four years I worked for the conservation district. They were applying for--and getting--help. Perhaps you need to understand how the system works in order to tap into it. Or... it may not apply to your needs. One size does not fit all.
Your farm may not fit into the larger environmental picture. Or you may not want to borrow money from FSA, which does indeed exist to help individual farmers. If you think most farmers have the skills, time, equipment and/or motivation to solve environmental problems and do it with each doing their own thing and no overall comprehensive planning, you are very naive.
The paperwork is onerous and no one likes Federal jargon, including many of the people who work for the government. But the fact remains that many farmers in NH have benefited and will continue to benefit, so I wouldn't be so quick to write the whole agency off.
NRCS does, indeed, exist to protect the environment, some of which is on farmland. You may be competing for a higher spot in the ranking (because there is a limit to the money they have to disperse) with a farm with worse environmental issues to solve. FSA is more geared to individual farms. Rural Development is community based. The Value-Added Program works with individual ag producers who make products from local ag products.
Again, I will tell you I have witnessed farmers benefiting from these programs. Each farmer needs to check them out to see if it's a good fit for them. I'd hate to see people discouraged from even trying.
Farmers,This is in response to a thread a little while ago about NRCS.I have come to realize that NRCS is not there to benefit small farms. Their purpose is to protect the environment. Natural Resources Conservation Services, OK, that makes sense. The impression I got from them was that farmers ruin the enviroment and once that is done, then they will help out. Especially if you put your land into a conservation easement and give up some rights to it. Sounds too much like Agenda 21 to me. Look that up!Maybe it would make sense to divert all of that money to helping small farms so that they can improve the environment through good farm practices (which takes some money) and maybe even help them out with taxes and acquiring land to farm. Instead of all that state owned land wouldn't it be nice to see farms again. It seems to be all backwards.Is there actually a source of funding that will help small farms? If anyone knows, please let me know. Maybe I am looking for something for nothing, but I think farming NH is a good thing that helps the local economy and community. It is a shame that there are so many people who have a passion to farm and can't because it is so cost prohibitive.Dina FarrellThe Olde Ways at Mustard Seed Farm288 Haines Hill RdWolfeboro, NH 03894http://www.microfarmersofnh.com (this one we are still working on)