WASHINGTON, June 28, 2011 – Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced that applications are being accepted for grants to provide economic assistance to independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives and agricultural producer groups through the Value Added Producer (VAPG) Grant Program.
"By creating value-added products, farmers and ranchers can expand economic opportunities, create jobs and keep wealth in rural communities," Merrigan said. "These funding opportunities will promote business expansion and entrepreneurship by helping local businesses get access to capital, technical assistance and new markets for their products and services."
For example, last year, Briar Valley Vineyard and Winery, Inc. in Bedford County received a VAPG to establish a downtown tasting room and expand its marketing efforts through billboards, new signage and other advertising. Owners Tod and Jean Manspeaker both grew up in rural Pennsylvania’s agricultural community. Tod’s family owned a quarter horse farm while Jean grew up on a dairy farm. It’s no surprise that Jean ended up in the vineyard and winery business--her grandfather raised Concord grapes and her father was a home winemaker.
Today, the couple grows Vinifera grapes, which favor the 1,200 feet elevation of the vineyard. While Jean is the winemaker, Tod focuses on maintaining the vineyard and marketing efforts. Briar Valley Vineyard and Winery has won over 100 international and national wine competition medals but the biggest challenge is marketing wine in Pennsylvania. The majority of their wine is sold to customers through their tasting room, but they’d like to expand into other states.
According to Thomas Williams, Pennsylvania Rural Development State Director, “The VAPG program is unique in that it provides business capital, opening the door of opportunity for producers to take their new business concepts to the next level.”
The application deadline is August 29, 2011. For further details about eligibility rules and application procedures, see the June 28, 2011, Federal Register. Value-Added Producer Grants may be used for feasibility studies or business plans, working capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based renewable energy projects. Eligible applicants include independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, and agricultural producer groups. Value-added products are created when a producer increases the consumer value of an agricultural commodity in the production or processing stage.
In June, the President signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council (WHRC) chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. To better coordinate Federal programs and maximize the impact of federal investment, the WHRC will work throughout government to create policies to promote economic prosperity and a high quality of life in our rural communities.
Since taking office, President Obama's Administration has taken significant steps to improve the lives of rural Americans and has provided broad support for rural communities. The Obama Administration has set goals of modernizing infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas, and providing affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America's rural communities are repopulating, self-sustaining, and thriving economically.
Through its Rural Development mission area, USDA administers and manages more than 40 housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a network of approximately 110 employees located in 11 offices throughout Pennsylvania. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers, and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. For more information on programs offered by USDA Rural Development, contact the Pennsylvania State Office at (717) 237-2299 or visit its website at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/pa.
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