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$10.5 million in value-added grants up for grabs

Tim Hearden

Capital Press

The federal government is taking new applications for its Value-Added Producer Grants program, which provided $2.7 million to 15 West Coast farming operations in the last round of awards this spring.

GERBER, Calif. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Value-Added Producer Grant program, which supports agricultural commodities that are changed or marketed in a way that increases their value, is taking requests through Feb. 24 for nearly $10.5 million in new funding.

Eligible applicants include independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives and agricultural producer groups, with priority given to disadvantaged or new farmers and small to mid-sized family farms or cooperatives.

The grants are an important way to help fledgling producers expand market opportunities and develop new products, said Eugene Kim, a policy specialist for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

“We feel on a lot of levels this will give farmers increased access to customers and a bigger market for their products,” Kim said.

To help growers apply, the Washington, D.C.-based coalition has produced a free handbook, the Farmers’ Guide to Value-Added Producer Grant Funding, with tips on how to improve their chances in the competitive application process.

The last cycle of grants was given out in May, and among the recipients were seven California farms that received a combined $1.5 million. Among the recipients was Pacific Farms and Orchards here, which planned to devote its $100,000 grant to exploring uses of the waste stream from its olive oil plant.

This spring, 15 dairies in 12 states were given grants for producing or doing feasibility studies for artisanal or specialty cheeses made on-farm. Eight awards nationwide went to organic products, including to a tribe in Wisconsin growing organic white corn.

The $10.5 million available in this round is from 2013 funding, but the pot will more than double if Congress finalizes a farm bill for 2014, the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition explained in a news release.

Online

USDA Value-Added Producer Grants program: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_VAPG.html

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition: http://sustainableagriculture.net



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