WASHINGTON, March 25, 2014 – USDA’s Rural Development agency announced a two week extension for grant applications for the Value-Added Producer Grant program. The extension, published in today's Federal Register, was made necessary by changes to the program included in the 2014 Farm Bill recently signed into law. The new grant deadline is April 8.
Ferd Hoefner, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), provided a breakdown of the changes. NSAC today re-issued its Farmers' Guide to Value-Added Producer Grant Funding, which provides strategies to improve a producer’s chances of obtaining funding from the competitive program and information on the program’s application requirements.
The two week extension will allow groups who have already submitted funding applications to revise their proposals if the new farm bill's addition of returning veteran farmers to the program's priorities is applicable to their proposal.
The other program priorities include small and medium-scale family farms, beginning farmers and ranchers, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
In addition to adding returning veteran farmers to the priority categories, the 2014 Farm Bill also clarifies that group projects that include more than a single farmer are to be ranked in terms of how well they advance the program's priorities by the review panels that evaluate all of the proposed projects. USDA will also be implementing this change as part of the current funding round.
"The program will function better with the new approach for determining which group project proposals best contribute to advancing the congressional-mandated priorities for small and mid-sized family farms and for beginning, minority, and veteran farmers." commented Hoefner. "We applaud USDA for implementing this provision and the veterans priority as part of the current grant cycle."
Congress appropriated $13.8 million in fiscal year 2013 and $15 million in fiscal year 2014 for VAPG. Both sums will be added together for this current grant round. Whether USDA awards the entire combined amount, or something less than that, will depend on the quality of the proposals received.
In addition to the $15 million in appropriated funds for fiscal year 2014, the 2014 Farm Bill also provides the program with $63 million in farm bill funding that can be used over the course of the next five years. USDA may decide to use a portion of the $63 million in a second grant round later this year.
"We are pleased USDA is combining two years' worth of appropriations in this grant round, and that they are considering a possible second round later this year" said Hoefner. "This will allow Rural Development to catch up and hopefully get back on a normal year-by-year grant cycle beginning in 2015."
For more news, go to www.agri-pulse.com