Wanted: Applicants for USDA's Value-Added Producer Grant program

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, June 28 - USDA is looking for individuals and groups interested in the Value-Added Producer Grant Program to sign up before August 29, 2011. Two years' worth of funding for the program will be released, making $37 million available for new value-added projects.

"By creating value-added products, farmers and ranchers can expand economic opportunities, create jobs and keep wealth in rural communities," Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said in making the announcement. "These funding opportunities will promote business expansion and entrepreneurship by helping local businesses get access to capital, technical assistance and new markets for their products and services."

Grants may be used to develop business plans and feasibility studies (including marketing plans) needed to establish viable marketing opportunities for value-added products or for working capital to operate a value-added business venture or alliance. Applicants may submit a planning grant (up to $100,000 each) or a working capital proposal (up to $300,000 each). The agency is estimating, based on previous experience, the average size grant award will be $116,000. In the last round of awards, 41 percent of total awards were under $50,000, according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. (NSAC).

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“We have fought hard for VAPG and are delighted the notice of funding availability is out and the program is once again open for business,” said Ferd Hoefner, NSAC policy director. “Value-added grants are an important opportunity for entrepreneurially inclined small and mid-sized family farms to expand markets and increase farm income. The resulting projects also help meet consumer demand for quality food products and increase rural jobs.

The VAPG program was initiated by Congress as part of the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000 and extended and revised as part of the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bill. Funding in Fiscal Year 2010 was over $20 million, but funding was reduced to just under $19 million as part of the Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2011. The fiscal year 2012 agricultural appropriations bill recently passed by the House of Representatives would slash the program by more than a third to $12.5 million.
“We urge the Senate to reject the House-passed cut to VAPG and to maintain funding for this innovative, market-based jobs-creating program,” said Hoefner.

The application deadline is August 29, 2011 and is available at: application.

 For further details about eligibility rules and application procedures, see the June 28, 2011, Federal Register. Value-Added Producer Grants may be used for feasibility studies or business plans, working capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based renewable energy projects. Eligible applicants include independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, and agricultural producer groups.

You can also find out more about eligibility and the application process guidelines by contacting your local USDA Rural Development Office, or contact the national program staff Lyn Millhiser at 202-720-1227 or Tracey Kennedy at 202-690-1428, or by emailing cpgrants@wdc.usda.gov for additional information.
Additional Resources:
If you are an agricultural producer or producer-controlled entity interested in applying, you can learn more at NSAC's summary of the VAPG program and read this guide to applying from the University of Wisconsin's Agricultural Innovation Center. Templates for applications are available from the University of Nebraska's Food Processing Center. More information specifically about this 2011 iteration of the program will likely be forthcoming in the near future.

To see how the FY 2009 awards were distributed and 15 examples of the projects that were funded, go to NSAC's two page summary of the 2009 VAPG projects.

To read a summary of the NSAC comments to USDA on the February 2011 Interim Final Rule for VAPG, or to read those comments in their entirety, go to this NSAC blog post.

A video of USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan discussing the many innovative uses of the VAPG program is also available for viewing.


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