USDA Announces $30 Million Available for Food Entrepreneurs and Agricultural Producers to Develop New Products

Vicki Schurman
Release Date
May 08, 2015

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA 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.

More information on how to apply is on page 26528 of the May 8 Federal Register.  The deadline to submit paper applications is July 7. Electronic applications submitted through are due July 2.  For more information, go to the Nebraska RD website at

Last year, two of the Nebraska recipients were Prairie Pride Poultry near York and Mac Creek Winery at Lexington.  Prairie Pride Poultry’s funds are being 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.  His 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.

Mac Creek Winery’s funds are being used to expand Mac Creek Winery’s market area to eastern and western Nebraska through 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 McFarland family, has 12 acres and lies along the banks of Spring Creek. Ten different grapes, including red and white varieties, are used to create 15 different wines.

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

To discuss a proposed project or to obtain application resources, please contact one of the following Business Program Specialists:

* Marla Marx, or 308-632-2195 extension 1132 – panhandle including northwest and southwest counties

* Kelley Messenger, or 308-237-3118 extension 120 – north and south central counties

* Bill Sheppard, or 402-371-5350 extension 1004 – northeast and southeast counties

* Deborah Drbal, or 402-437-5558

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.