ST. PAUL, Minn., Dec 02, 2013 -- Contact:
Nikki Gillespie, (651) 602-7786
USDA Announces Notice of Funding Availability for Value-Added Producer Grants
Grants extend production season and income opportunities for America’s Farmers
ST. PAUL, Minn. Dec. 2, 2013 – USDA Rural Development State Director Colleen Landkamer today announced the availability of nearly $10.5 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants to help rural small businesses and agricultural producers enter into value-added activities designed to give them a competitive business edge.
“Local food is one of the fastest growing segments of agriculture. Producers can earn more when the agricultural infrastructure they rely on – processing, aggregation and distribution, shipping and sales –is thriving,” Landkamer said. “Supporting agriculture producers and related businesses strengthens rural economies and helps fuel innovation and product development. It’s also an important part of USDA programs that link producers to their communities, and it underscores the many benefits of local and regional food systems.”
Funding is made available through USDA Rural Development’s Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program. Grants are available to help agricultural producers and rural small business owners 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 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.
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, USDA Rural Development has provided agricultural producers and related small businesses with almost $4 million in Value Added Producer Grant assistance that has supported more than 17 innovative, value-added projects throughout rural Minnesota.
In Fiscal year 2012, for example, Featherstone Fruits and Vegetables received a $300,000 working capital grant to increase services in the Southeast region of Minnesota. The 250 acre certified organic farm produces around 70 varieties of fresh market fruits and vegetables for distribution to natural food stores and Community Supported Agriculture members throughout the region. VAPG funding will help increase Featherstone’s customer base by adding wholesalers to the list.
Additional examples of how VAPGs assist local and regional food producers are available on the USDA Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass (www.usda.gov/kyfcompass), 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, or by contacting your local area office www.rurdev.usda.gov/mn.
Landkamer said that today’s announcement is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs such as the VAPG program for rural Minnesota. A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy, Landkamer added, saying that’s just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Bill done as soon as possible.
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