Funding to support beginning, veteran, and socially-disadvantaged farmers and ranchers to expand businesses
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the Department is making $30 million available to farmers, ranchers and food entrepreneurs to develop new product lines. Funding will be made available through USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program.
“Farmers and ranchers are creative people who, with a little help, can put that creativity to work and improve the bottom line for their operations,” Vilsack said. “Value Added Producer Grants enable them to develop new product lines to grow their businesses and expand their contributions to our nation’s economy. This support is especially important for beginning farmers, military veterans engaging in farming and smaller farm operations participating in the local and regional food system.”
USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel said, “Through the ingenuity of our dynamic rural Maine farmers and agribusinesses, the Value-Added Producer Grant can aid in the development and marketing of innovative Maine made items. This program can be a catalyst for growth, and an opportunity for business development, job creation and retention, and help support the overall prosperity of the rural community.”
An example of a Maine-based business that benefited from a Value-Added Producer Grant is VitaminSea, based in Scarborough. VitaminSea recently received a USDA Rural Development Value-Added Producer Grant in the amount of $99,988 to support a marketing plan, assist with the creation of unique packaging, and assisting with increased labor production costs. VitaminSea harvests seaweed off the coast of Maine for the creation of a wide variety of products including health snacks, seasonings, agricultural products, seaweed for use in lobster bakes, pet products and more. The company harvests approximately 100 pounds of wet seaweed annually, which equates to 10,000 pounds of dry seaweed for use in production. The businesses added three jobs and will retain three jobs as a result of the grant.
More information on how to apply is published in the May 8 Federal Register.
VAPG grants can be used to develop new product lines from raw agricultural products or additional uses for already developed product lines. Military veterans, socially-disadvantaged, and beginning farmers and ranchers; operators of small- and medium-sized family farms and ranches; farmer and rancher cooperatives; and applicants that propose mid-tier value chain projects are given special priority in applying for VAPGs. Additional priority is given to group applicants who seek funding for projects that “best contribute” to creating or increasing marketing opportunities for these type of operators.
Since 2009, USDA has awarded 853 Value-Added Producer Grants totaling $104.5 million. Approximately 19 percent of the grants and 13 percent of total funding has been awarded to beginning farmers and ranchers. During the 2013-2014 funding cycle, nearly half of VAPG awards went to farmers and ranchers developing products for the local food sector. Value Added Producer Grants are a key element of the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, which coordinates the Department’s work on local and regional food systems. Secretary Vilsack has identified local and regional food systems as one of the four pillars of rural economic development.
Congress increased funding for the VAPG program when it passed the 2014 Farm Bill. That law builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers.
Since the bill’s enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including expanding access to rural credit, developing new markets for rural-made products, and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve the quality of life in rural America. 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.