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USDA Announces $25 Million for Nation's Farmers to Turn Commodities into Value-Added Products; Two Awards in Nebraska

Vicki Schurman
Release Date

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today highlighted the importance of rural entrepreneurs to the U.S. economy and said investments in them are helping businesses grow, diversify and create jobs. USDA is investing $25 million to help 247 businesses nationwide expand their operations and create new products to market, Secretary Vilsack said.

Two Nebraska companies receive awards totaling $181,518

Prairie Pride Poultry received a $5,500 Value Added Producer Grant from USDA Rural Development.  The funds will be used to support the marketing of locally produced farm-fresh eggs from over 600 farm raised Rhode Island Red hens.  Dan Hromas, the owner of Prairie Pride Poultry, is a former Marine and current member of the Nebraska National Guard and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  After nearly two decades protecting U.S. freedom and interests as a soldier, the former Marine and current member of the Nebraska Army National Guard has found a new purpose and resolve through his flock of chickens.

The York-area farm is the first in Nebraska and second in the US to be certified by the new national program “Homegrown by Heroes”, a marketing initiative that recognizes farmer veterans.  The hens produce 3,150 eggs a week.  Mr. Hromas is currently selling eggs to Grand Central Foods in York, Hy-Vee in Grand Island and Hy-Vee in Lincoln.  The funds will allow him to expand his market to the Farmers Market in Lincoln.

Mac Creek Winery received a $176,018 VAPG grant to expand Mac Creek Winery’s market area to eastern and western Nebraska through the execution of a marketing campaign that involves multiple media avenues.  The borrower will be providing their own matching funds for 51% of the project and will create two jobs and save two jobs as a result of the project, in a community of 10,230 in population.

The winery is family owned and operated by the McFarlands and is located one-half mile north of Lexington, Nebraska on U.S. Highway 21.  The vineyard is 12 acres and lies along the banks of Spring Creek. Ten different types of grapes, including red and white varieties are used to create 15 different wines.

“The funding we are announcing today will have far-reaching, positive impacts in communities where these producers are located,” Vilsack said.  “The investments will help businesses create new products, expand their operations, and support local and regional food systems.”

The funding is being provided through USDA Rural Development’s Value-Added Producer Grant program.  The program helps agricultural producers increase their income by expanding marketing opportunities, creating new products and developing new uses for existing products.

Since 2009, USDA has awarded 857 Value-Added Producer Grants totaling $78.6 million. More than 20% of the grants, and more than 15% of total funding, has been awarded to beginning farmers and ranchers.

The grants can be used for a wide range of purposes.  They can support local and regional food systems, further the development of the growing bioeconomy, and finance the distribution of local and regional products.

Value-Added Producer Grants are an element of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which coordinates USDA’s work to support local and regional food systems.  Previous Value-Added Producer Grants supporting local and regional projects are mapped on the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food compass.

USDA is awarding Value-Added Producer Grants in 46 states, Puerto Rico and Micronesia.  A full list of recipients is available at www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_VAPG.html.  Funding for each project is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement.

The announcement of today’s funding was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

President Obama’s historic investments in rural America have made our rural communities stronger.  Under his leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities.