Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced the availability of $10.5 million dollars in USDA grants to help agricultural producers get a competitive business edge. 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 or to support further processing of existing products or goods. 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.
“U.S. agriculture is responsible for millions of American jobs – both directly and indirectly,” Vilsack said. “Supporting farmers and related businesses strengthens rural economies and helps fuel innovation and product development. It’s also an important part of USDA programs that link farmers to their communities, and it underscores the many benefits of local and regional food systems.”
Missouri State Director Janie Dunning commented, “Pursuing new markets and expanding product offerings is important in any industry. Obviously, agriculture is no different. The VAPG program offers the opportunity for our state’s agricultural producers to determine the feasibility of new product offerings. Increased economic activity, at any level, is essential for the vitality of our rural communities.”
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.
Secretary Vilsack said the 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. Grant applications are due by Feb. 24, 2014. More information about how to apply is available on page 70260 of the November 25th Federal Register, or by contacting any USDA Rural Development state office.