Grant awards for farm business development announced by USDA

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that 247 farm businesses from 46 states will receive nearly $25 million in grants from the 2014 round of the Value-Added Producer Grants program. The Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG) program awards competitive grants that facilitate the creation and development of value-added, farmer-owned businesses.

“The VAPG program has been a priority of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) since the program’s beginning in 2000,” said Ferd Hoefner, NSAC Policy Director. “We are pleased the new projects are now off and running to help improve farm income, create jobs, and develop new markets.”

The VAPG program contributes to farmer-led job and business creation in rural areas, while enhancing food choices for consumers. Individual independent agricultural producers, groups of independent producers, producer-controlled entities, organizations representing agricultural producers, and farmer or rancher cooperatives are eligible. VAPG grants may be used for working capital or to develop business plans and feasibility studies for new ventures.

NSAC campaigned for improvements to the program made in the 2008 Farm Bill, including a consideration of local food enterprises and food supply networks linking farm to table, plus program priorities for assisting small and mid-size family farms as well as beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

In the 2014 Farm Bill, Congress clarified how program priorities are to be assessed and added returning veteran farmers as a new priority category. The 2014 bill also provided $63 million in mandatory (direct) farm bill funding for VAPG to supplement the annual appropriation the program receives. The substantive changes and mandatory funding were NSAC farm bill priorities.

“Congress made a good decision to increase funding for this rural economic stimulus program,” said NSAC Policy Specialist Eugene Kim. “We are particularly keen on the ability of the value-added agriculture to improve prospects for small and mid-scale farms and for growing the local and regional food market.”

The term “value-added” describes a process whereby an agricultural commodity or product has undergone a change in physical state or was produced, marketed, or segregated (i.e., identity-preserved, eco-labelling) in a manner that enhances its value or expands the product’s customer base. Examples of value-added processes include:

• Market differentiation: Georgia Mountain Farmers Network will use their grant to assist in the marketing of locally grown fruits and vegetables within Northeast Georgia.

Click here for the complete list of the new Value-Added Producer Grant award recipients. (PDF)

Previous VAPG awards supporting local and regional projects are mapped on the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food compass.

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