Funding Resources for Assistive Technology for Farmers and Ranchers

Aftermarket Steps on Tractor

Aftermarket Steps on Tractor

Aftermarket steps can improve tractor accessibility.

(Source: AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians)

Use the following format to cite this article:
Funding resources for assistive technology for farmers and ranchers. (2022) Ag Safety and Health in eXtension Community of Practice. Retrieved from

Individuals can have difficulty locating and qualifying for funding for assistive technology. Farmers and ranchers with disabilities who seek assistive technology can face even more challenges because of their work statuses, their farm or ranch assets, and the types of accommodations they may need to continue working in production agriculture. Assistive technology for those involved in production agriculture may need to be more durable than that needed for people working in other occupations because of the type of work and the work environment. The table that follows provides information about possible funding resources for farmers and ranchers with disabilities.

Funding Source Information Example Notes
National AgrAbility Project

State and Regional AgrAbility Projects (SRAPs)

Currently, more than 20 SRAPs provide direct services to farmers and ranchers with disabilities for their agricultural operations. SRAPs can provide farmers and ranchers who have disabilities with information about modifications for their farm operations. SRAP staff members are knowledgeable about funding options for assistive technology and other opportunities within their state. If you are from a state that does not have a SRAP, contact the National AgrAbility Project.
State vocational rehabilitation agencies The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) of the US Department of Education provides funding to states to help individuals with disabilities obtain or retain employment. These federal dollars go to the vocational rehabilitation agency within a state. Services, including assistive technology, restoration services, and training, are provided to eligible individuals through an approved Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE). Examples of available assistive technology include gators/utility vehicles, steps onto a tractor, air suspension seats for a tractor, automatic hitching systems, and hand controls on skid steers. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act puts an emphasis on transition for students with disabilities. There is also emphasis on serving individuals with the most significant disabilities.
US Department of Veteran Affairs Both the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration provide assistive technology to veterans. All veterans who have an honorable discharge are eligible for some services, whether the disability is service-related or not. The Veterans Health Administration can provide durable medical equipment, glasses, hearing aids, Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) benefits, and grants for veterans who are blind. The Veterans Benefits Administration can provide vehicles (including tractors), home adaptations, and Specially Adapted Housing grants. A veteran must be registered at his or her local Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Home and Community-Based Services Waivers programs The US Department of Health and Human Services provides funding to states to provide services to people with disabilities in the community. These services are designed to help individuals be independent, safe, and included in the community. Available devices and services include adaptations to vehicles, home modifications, hearing aids, and other assistive technology (environmental controls, specialized computers and software). There are both financial and functional eligibility requirements. Waivers can be used to support farm family members who want to participate in farming activities, live at home, or participate in community activities.
Health insurance


Health insurance plans, including private plans, Medicaid, and Medicare, provide Durable Medical Equipment (DME) for enrollees. DME includes canes, walkers, wheelchairs, hospital beds, oxygen equipment, and in-home dialysis equipment. Assistive technology provided by health insurance coverage is directly related to medical need.
Statewide Assistive Technology Programs Every state and territory has a program that incorporate activities for learning about and acquiring assistive technology. Most state assistive technology programs provide information about devices, assistive technology demonstrations, equipment lending libraries, and reuse programs. Some have state financing programs. Some of the states include alternative financing programs (AFPs) as part of their assistive technology programs; some provide other allowable programs, including Telecommunication Device Distribution Programs (TDDP).
Alternative Financing Programs (AFPs) The majority of the states and territories (at least 42) have financing programs for the purchase of assistive technology. As part of the Assistive Technology Act, AFPs provide flexible financing terms for people with disabilities and their families. Depending on the state’s program, borrowers have the ability to purchase adapted vehicles, home modifications, hearing aids, computers, tablets, and adapted farm equipment. AFPs provide direct loans, guaranteed loans, interest buy-downs, and traditional loans. Some of the programs are embedded within the state assistive technology project; others are non-profit organizations.
US Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan programs The USDA has several loan programs, along with partial grants, available to eligible low-income homeowners to repair, improve, or modernize their homes. A variety of financing packages (including grants) are available to individuals, non-profits, consumer cooperatives, and others. These programs can make it possible for a farmer to make repairs on his or her home. Basic repairs (such as a roof repair) are not considered assistive technology and so do not qualify for an AFP loan.
Housing Financing Agencies Every state and territory has a housing financing agency. These agencies incorporate a number of programs that expand affordable, accessible housing options for people with disabilities. States have the ability to develop their own programs. Many states provide flexible financing for home ownership, renovation and repair programs, and programs that finance assistive technology (home modifications) for individuals who have disabilities or long-term health conditions. Many states have created Housing Trust Funds to support the expansion of housing programs. Several states have expanded the funding for these programs with fees or taxes from gas production.
Local service clubs and disability service clubs Many disability and service clubs provide grants to individuals for assistive technology or labor to build, renovate, or repair structures. Local affiliates of United Cerebral Palsy provide grants for computers and specialized software; many organizations serving individuals with multiple sclerosis provide small grants for home modifications; many agencies serving individuals with ALS have equipment loan closets; Lions Club affiliates provide eyeglasses; and Eagle Scouts work on projects on farms. Also, many Grange and local Farm Bureau organizations and 4H programs have service learning projects and small grant programs. Because there are a variety of small grant programs, it is important to research local resources.
Options Counseling
The Administration for Community Living within the US Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for creating Options Counseling programs in every state. Options Counselors help individuals—primarily those who are aging or who have a disability or health-related diagnosis—develop a plan for addressing long-term services and supports and assist these individuals in connecting with public and private funding, as needed.
Options Counselors are being trained and will have the resources necessary (including state-specific information via the Internet) to help individuals learn about the resources they need to work, live in their own homes, and participate in their communities. Options Counselors are being trained on resources that will help farmers and ranchers with disabilities continue in production agriculture.
Cooperative Extension System The Cooperative Extension System, which is funded in part by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture within the USDA, has a network of local and regional offices that are staffed by experts who provide information and training opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and farm families interested in topics related to agriculture. Through a network of statewide and local resources, Extension teams can provide farmers, gardeners, and producers with the information needed to start or expand a business, health and safety protocols, and connections to peers, vendors, and information related to emerging businesses. The Extension system is well-coordinated, and Extension staff members have the ability to research and share information that is useful to individual farmers and ranchers.
State Departments of Agriculture Every state and territory has a Department of Agriculture that is staffed by knowledgeable employees and funded with a combination of state and federal dollars. There are a variety of grant-funded programs available for farmers or others who are interested in production agriculture. Programs cover such topics as business planning, transitions to organic farming, improving soil health, and protecting water quality. Funding for specific programs may not be available every year.  It is important to research what is available within a specific state.
National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) A non-profit, NCAT hosts a number of programs that promote sustainable agriculture. NCAT’s agriculture work has recently focused on small-scale intensive farming, urban farming, and local foods, and assistance to small farmers, beginning and new farmers, and veterans wishing to become farmers. NCAT has staff members who can assist farmers and ranchers with information and training opportunities. NCAT developed and manages the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA).
Kiva Zip Kiva provides 0% interest micro-loans to eligible small business owners in the United States. Kiva Zip provides small business loans of up to $10,000 to farmers when other sources of funds are not available. A few programs are working with foundations to expand lending opportunities to entrepreneurs. A program in Philadelphia is designed to expand urban gardening/production. Borrowers must have a viable business or business plan. The loan must be expected to have a positive social impact (for example, food production for urban areas).
Weatherization Assistance Programs The US Department of Energy (DOE) provides grants to states for weatherization assistance. Under DOE guidelines, states give preference to people over 60, families with one or more members having a disability, and low-income families with children. The local weatherization assistance agency carries out an energy audit, makes recommendations, and depending on the needs, provides the necessary work (energy-related). Weatherization assistance programs do not assist with new roofs or siding or similar structural improvements.  However, agencies may be able to coordinate with organizations that provide such assistance.
National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) NRCS is part of the USDA. NRCS financial and technical projects relate to air quality, groundwater conservation, erosion reduction, and so on. NRCS offers programs to eligible landowners and agricultural producers to help sustainably manage natural resources.
Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) SARE has grant opportunities available to producers, students, community organizations, and others. Grants for producers may help with the costs of hosting field days, samples and analyses, labor, and so on (see grant guidelines). Grants are very competitive. For producers, grant funds cannot be used to buy equipment or to start or expand an operation. Funds can be used for outreach, materials for the funded project, and so on.

Use the following format to cite this article:

Funding resources for assistive technology for farmers and ranchers. (2022) Ag Safety and Health in eXtension Community of Practice. Retrieved from

Authored by:

Susan Tachau, PA Assistive Technology Foundation –
Reviewed by:
Kirk Ballin, Virginia AgrAbility
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University –
Karen Funkenbusch, University of Missouri –
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (has since retired)
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska –

National AgrAbility Project

National AgrAbility Project logo


AgrAbility is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide direct services to farmers and ranchers with disabilities or long-term health conditions that impact their ability to work in production agriculture. National, state, and regional AgrAbility Projects are partnerships between land-grant institutions and nonprofit disability services organizations. AgrAbility’s objectives include:

  • developing service capacity by presenting educational programs designed to increase a producer’s capabilities, adapting new technologies, and delivering program content at educational activities venues;
  • encouraging networking to foster information sharing; and
  • providing direct services to agricultural workers.

AgrAbility’s Mission Statement

The vision of AgrAbility is to enable a high-quality lifestyle for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers with disabilities, so that they, their families, and their communities continue to succeed in rural America. For this target audience, success may be defined by many parameters, including:

  • gainful employment in production agriculture or a related occupation;
  • access to appropriate assistive technology needed for work and daily living activities;
  • evidence-based information related to the treatment and rehabilitation of disabling conditions; and
  • targeted support for family caregivers of AgrAbility customers.

Click here to locate the AgrAbility Project in your area.

Assistive Technology for Agricultural Producers

Agricultural producers with disabilities or chronic health conditions who have difficulties completing their responsibilities on the farm or ranch may benefit from assistive technology (AT). Per the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, AT can be defined as any item, piece of equipment, or product system—whether modified, customized, or acquired commercially off the shelf—that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. The following list provides examples of assistive technology for agricultural producers:

  • Extra steps and handrails on a tractor help a producer with arthritis get in and out of the cab of a tractor.
  • An automatic hitching system enables a producer with mobility impairment to hitch and unhitch wagons while he or she remains in the tractor seat, reducing the strain on the knees and hips.
  • An automatic feed cart enables a person with a back impairment who can no longer use a wheelbarrow to feed a dairy herd.

Click here to be directed to the searchable online version of “The Toolbox,” a compilation of assistive technology solutions for producers with disabilities developed by the Breaking New Ground Resource Center.


Assistive technology act. (1998) U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved from


Use the following format to cite this article:

National AgrAbility Project. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from

Reviewed and Summarized by:
Kerri Ebert, Kansas State University –
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University –
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University – (Has since retired)
Rob Stuthridge, Purdue University
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center –