The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) this week announced $25 million to help 247 businesses nationwide, including nine in Oregon, expand their operations and create new products to market.
The funding is being provided through USDA Rural Development's Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program.
"This program has been instrumental in helping Oregon producers develop new product lines, add jobs, and generate additional economic activity in our rural areas,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker.
VAPG helps agricultural producers grow their businesses by turning raw commodities into value-added products, expanding marketing opportunities, and developing new uses for existing products. 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.
Among this year’s awardees is Champoeg Farm, a multi-species pastured poultry farm near St. Paul, Oregon. In addition to raising chickens for eggs and meat, forest pork, beef cattle, and other livestock, owners Mark and Catherine Anderson raise and sell whole turkeys during the holiday season. In addition to selling through local grocers, Champoeg Farm currently sells their pasture-raised poultry and other products online and at regional farmers markets. The USDA grant will allow Champoeg Farm to increase production and sales of pasture-raised whole holiday birds while also developing year-round value-added products, including ground turkey, turkey sausage, turkey jerky, and other items. The grant will also assist with the development of process efficiencies, storage, distribution, and marketing to bring locally grown turkey products to buyers in Oregon and across the region.
“We are a small farm, and this grant will assist us greatly in our growth,” Mark Anderson said. “It means additional team members and expansion of our value-added product, with significant impact on our farm and local suppliers.”
Another current awardee, Greenwillow Grains, has been growing heirloom and other varieties of wheat, oats, barley, rye, and other crops in Oregon’s Willamette Valley near Brownsville since 2003. They began milling on a small scale in 2009 in response to the demand for locally grown and processed grains, and they currently sell to a local cooperative and grocers in Corvallis, Salem, McMinnville, and Portland. The USDA grant will allow Greenwillow Grains to expand their wholesale and retail customer base into Seattle and San Francisco. To handle the increased activity, owner Willow Coberly said she expects to add four new employees immediately and approximately 15 jobs over the next five years.
Since 2009, USDA has awarded 863 Value-Added Producer Grants totaling $108 million. Twenty percent of the grants and 16 percent of the total funding has been awarded to beginning farmers and ranchers. The 2014 Farm Bill provides $63 million in funding for the program over five years (while also reauthorizing an additional $40 million in discretionary funding).
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 current recipients is available here. 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. Since its enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; 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.
Editor’s Note: Photographs are available upon request.