Anchorage, Alaska, Nov 25, 2013 -- U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development (USDA-RD) Alaska State Director Jim Nordlund today announced the availability of nearly $10.5 million nationally in U.S. Department of Agriculture 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," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "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 the 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.
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.
For example, in 2011 the Sitkinak Cattle Ranch on Kodiak Island completed its VAPG project which produced a product line of value-added shelf stable beef products. The value added process and packaging method addressed their challenges to bring remote product to market. "This award also advances USDA-RD’s goals to support local and regional food systems by providing other Alaskan communities their locally produced products where they can be delivered," Nordlund said.
Additional examples of how VAPGs assist local and regional food producers are available on the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass, which is searchable by zip code and key word. Grant applications are due by February 24, 2014. More information about how to apply is available on page 70260 of the November 25, 2013 Federal Register at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-11-25/pdf/2013-28175.pdf, or by contacting USDA-RD Alaska’s Business Programs Specialist Chad Stovall at (907) 761-7718, or email@example.com.
The VAPG program is one of many USDA programs that support the development of strong local and regional food systems as part of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative. Launched in 2009, the initiative strengthens ties between agricultural producers and their local communities, helping meet growing consumer demand and creating opportunities for small business development. Initiatives like this create new income opportunities for farmers, generate wealth that will stay in rural communities, and increase access to healthy, local foods in underserved communities. All of these actions boost local economies.
Today’s announcement comes as more than 1,400 communities nationwide gear up to support Small Business Saturday, a day dedicated to championing small businesses on one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year. This year’s Small Business Saturday is November 30.
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. Since 2009, the Obama Administration has provided agricultural producers with almost $80 million in Value Added Producer Grant assistance that has supported more than 600 innovative, value-added projects.
Secretary Vilsack said that today’s announcement is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs such as 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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