WASHINGTON, April 29, 2014-- USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced resource allocations Tuesday tailored for small and midsized farmers and ranchers. They include $7 million in university research awards, $8.8 million for technical assistance programs, and a marketing certification program for small grass-fed beef producers.

USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden said she hopes the funds dedicated to small and medium-sized farmers show USDA’s commitment to serve all producers. “It’s an exciting thing in agriculture to see this renewed interest all over the country,” she said, noting that many small farming operations are run by veterans and others not previously engaged in agriculture.   

The first package USDA announced this year for small and midsize producers included efforts to increase access to capital, provide better risk management tools, expand marketing opportunities, and offer food safety training.

Efforts announced by the Secretary today include $7 million in grant awards to 10 universities to develop programs that will assist small and medium-sized farmers grow their operations. These awards are made by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Small and Medium-Sized Farms program. USDA will also allocate $8.8 million for technical assistance funding for small, socially-disadvantaged producers and Rural Cooperative Centers.

For the first time, USDA will offer certification for small producers of grass-fed beef. Administered by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), this new verification program allows small-scale producers to certify that their animals meet the requirements of the grass-fed marketing claim standard.  

AMS is targeting producers that market 49 cattle or less each year. Producers who are certified under the new program will receive certificates that allow them to market cattle to slaughter facilities as USDA certified grass-fed, increasing their market value and creating new economic opportunities throughout the supply chain.


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