Washington, DC, Aug 16, 2012 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today invited agricultural producers to apply for grants to increase the value of their products.
“Producers can greatly enhance the bottom line of their businesses and improve their economic prospects when they improve the value of their products, thus expanding their markets and customer base,” Vilsack said. “The Value Added Producer Grant program (VAPG) has a proven track record of doing just that and I am pleased to announce that we are inviting producers to apply for these grants by the deadline. The funds in this program enable America’s farmers, ranchers and rural business owners to find ways to expand their product offerings, revenue streams and create more economic opportunity by bringing additional value to what they already produce.”
Applicants have until October 15, 2012 to apply. Vilsack emphasized that far too many producers are missing out on significant economic opportunities when their products are enhanced further away from the farm. “When our producers keep their value-added activities closer to the farm, it not only improves their bottom line; it strengthens our rural economy and strengthens our rural communities.”
USDA Rural Development is making up to $14 million in grants available for projects that help farmers and ranchers produce bio-based products from agricultural commodities. The grants, which are competitively awarded, are available for planning activities or for working capital expenses, but not for both. The maximum grant amount is $100,000 for planning grants and $300,000 for working capital grants. Generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities and increasing producer income are the goals of the VAPG program.
For example, Dave and Bonnie Jisa of David City, Nebraska own a dairy herd and when the milk prices had dropped they decided to make cheese. The Jisas received a Value Added Producer Grant to explore processing farmstead cheeses. They built a specialty cheese manufacturing facility and today Jisa Farmstead Cheese is providing product to three major food distributing companies along with several independent stores and wineries. The goal is to use all the milk from the dairy to make locally produced cheeses.
Businesses of all sizes are encouraged to apply, but priority will be given to operators of small and medium-sized farms or ranches that are structured as family farms, beginning farmers or ranchers, or those owned by socially-disadvantaged farmers or ranchers. Grants are available for projects up to 36 months in duration.
President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy and strengthening small towns and rural communities. USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has an active portfolio of more than $170 billion in loans and loan guarantees. 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.