Earlier this month, the USDA announced the recipients of the 2013 Value-Added Producer Grants program. The total amount of grants dispersed, going to 110 agricultural producers, totals over $16 million.
This funding is designed to stimulate the creation or development of value-added producer-owned businesses in areas that would benefits from such an institution but require assistance to get started. Often VAPG grants are used to conduct market feasibility studies or marketing plans for future businesses.
The program was first introduced in 2000, and then expanded in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills to include more products and activities. Applicant match the grant funds in cash or with in-kind contributions, and invest this money first before receiving the grant money. Click here for more information on the program.
The 2013 awardees are spread over 43 states, as well as Puerto Rico and Guam. The areas of agricultural focus were diverse, with over a dozen grants going to on-farm cheese production, a dozen going to farm-produced alcohol market research, and ten going to bio-fuels research.
A few of the many 2013 grantees include:
The Mississippi Delta Southern Black Women in Agriculture Cooperative, which was funded to to develop, produce, and brand sweet potato products for local markets. The work will be in partnership with local farmers involved in the supply chain.
The Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, which will conduct market differentiation research (basically a study to see how well a speciality version of a crop can be marketed) for organic white corn products.
And Broadfork Farm of Virginia, which will expand the processing and marketing of pizzas and breads from producer-grown vegetables.
In the past, VAPG grants have been distributed to everything from individual farms to grower cooperatives and trade associations. See the complete 2013 grant list here.
The VAPG program is a part of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act that was introduced in Congress last week (S. 837 and H.R. 1727), and is another great example of why we need to build as much support for the Opportunity Act as we can. (Send an email to your representative today!) Right now the VAPG’s future is uncertain, and we need to push for support of this useful program.
In comparison to the numbers presented today, the funding amount proposed by Congress last year (that never made it into law) was a huge cut to only $10 million. Today, the Opportunity Act is proposing to fund the program at $20 million – half the original amount in the 2002 Farm Bill. This is a respectable cost-savings (given the current fiscal climate) that still supports American agriculture. Take a moment to tell your Representative to sign on RIGHT NOW!