Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Vernita F. Dore today highlighted the importance of rural entrepreneurs to the U.S. economy and announced that USDA is investing nearly $34 million to help 258 businesses nationwide. The funding comes from USDA Rural Development’s Value-Added Producer Grant program.
“This funding will enable farmers and ranchers to develop new products, improve the bottom line for their operations and help create a robust local and regional food system,” Dore said. “Value-Added Producer Grants provide capital to enable ag producers to grow their business through diversification. USDA’s support is especially important for beginning farmers and smaller farm operations.”
Value-Added Producer Grants can be used to develop new agricultural products or additional markets for existing ones. Military veterans, socially-disadvantaged and beginning farmers and ranchers, operators of small- and medium-sized family farms and ranches, and farmer and rancher cooperatives are given priority when applying for these grants.
Examples of companies receiving awards today include EarthDance, a farm in Ferguson, Mo., that also operates an organic farm school. EarthDance is receiving a $19,000 grant to conduct a feasibility study and develop a business plan for marketing organic local produce.
In Sebastopol, Calif., the Bohemian Creamery is receiving a $100,000 grant to produce, sell and market goat whey sodas and soft-serve frozen yogurt. In Madison County, Va., North Cove Mushroom has been selected for a $250,000 grant that will help the company market and process locally produced mushrooms into prepared foods and medicinal products.
Funding of each award announced today is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement.
Since 2009, USDA has awarded 1,115 Value-Added Producer Grants totaling $154 million. Approximately 18 percent of the grants and 14 percent of total funding has been awarded to beginning farmers and ranchers. During 2015, more than one-third of Value-Added awards went to farmers and ranchers developing products for the local foods sector.
Value-Added Producer Grants are a key element of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, which coordinates the Department’s work on local and regional food systems. These are major contributors to rural economic development. Congress increased funding for the Value-Added program when it passed the 2014 Farm Bill. That measure builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past seven years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers.
Rural Development helped 84 agricultural producers carry out local foods projects in 2014 through almost $8.9 million in Value-Added Producer Grant awards. For instance, in Arizona, North Leupp Family Farms received a $26,270 grant to determine the feasibility of producing blue cornmeal from Navajo corn and starting a mobile market to sell products on the Navajo Nation. In Georgia, the owners of B.J. Reese Orchards, LLC are using a $200,000 grant to process their apples into home-made apple pies and other value-added apple products.
President Obama’s plan for rural America has produced historic investment in rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have strengthened America’s small towns and cities and helped improve the nation’s economy.