Washington, Nov 25, 2013 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the availability of nearly $10.5 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development grants to help agricultural producers enter into value-added activities designed to give them a competitive business edge.
"U.S. agriculture is responsible for millions of American jobs – both directly and indirectly," Vilsack said. "Supporting farmers and related businesses strengthens rural economies and helps fuel innovation and product development. It's also an important part of USDA programs that link farmers to their communities, and it underscores the many benefits of local and regional food systems."
The funding is being made available through USDA's Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program. Grants are available to help agricultural producers create new products, expand marketing opportunities, support further processing of existing products or goods, or to develop specialty and niche products. They may be used for working capital and planning activities. The maximum working capital grant is $200,000; the maximum planning grant is $75,000.
"This program is just one of many that USDA Rural Development offers to support rural communities and help develop strong local and regional food systems," said USDA Rural Development California State Director Glenda Humiston. "We look forward to assisting agriculture producers create new value-added business opportunities with their California-grown foods."
Eligible applicants include independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, and agricultural producer groups. Funding priority is given to socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers or ranchers, and to small- to medium-size family farms, or farmer/rancher cooperatives.
Rural Development is encouraging applications from Tribal organizations as well as applications that support regional food hubs. Applications supporting value-added activities related to bio-based products are also encouraged.
Last year, seven successful applicants in California received grants through the program. Recipients ranged from dairy cooperative Challenge Dairy Products in Dublin, Calif., who used funds to help market a new light, spreadable butter, to Pacific Farms and Orchards in Tehama, Calif. who studied ways to utilize byproducts from olive oil production. Additional examples of how VAPGs assist local and regional food producers are available on the USDA Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass, which is searchable by zip code and key word.
Grant applications are due by Feb. 24, 2014. More information about how to apply is available on page 70260 of the November 25 http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-11-25/pdf/2013-28175.pdf Federal Register. Questions can be directed to Karen Firestein at (530) 792-5829 or Karen.Firestein@ca.usda.gov.
Secretary Vilsack said that today’s announcement is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs, including the Value-Added Producer Grant program, for rural America. A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy, Vilsack added, saying that’s just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Bill done as soon as possible.
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, 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.
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