Temple, Texas, Nov 27, 2013 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the availability of nearly $10.5 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants to help agricultural producers enter into value-added activities designed to give them a competitive business edge.
"U.S. agriculture is connected to one in 12 American jobs, and value-added products from homegrown sources are one important way that agriculture generates economic growth," Vilsack said. "Supporting producers and businesses to create value-added products strengthens rural economies, helps fuel innovation, and strengthens marketing opportunities for producers – especially at the local and regional level."
“Investing in the creative ideas of innovative Texans will result in a positive step towards rural economic and community development,” said Paco Valentin, Texas Rural Development State Director. “We are pleased to offer this opportunity to rural entrepreneurs and producers whose endeavors will increase the value of agricultural commodities and therefore promote job creation in their communities.”
The funding is being made available through the Value-Added Producer Grant 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.
The Value-Added Producer Grant 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 Nov. 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.
Grant applications are due by Feb. 24, 2014. More information about how to apply is available on page 70260 of the November 25 Federal Register located online at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-11-25/html/2013-28175.htm, or by contacting the Texas USDA Rural Development State Office at (254) 742-9780.
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.