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Virginia Rural Development Celebrates 20-Year Legacy of Supporting Value Added Agricultural Enterprises

Laurette Tucker
Release Date

Now Accepting Applications for $31 Million in Fiscal Year 2023 funding

RICHMOND, Va., March 22, 2023 – Proud parents often mark the milestones in their children's lives through scrapbooks, trophy walls and height marks on door frames. USDA Rural Development has created an extended family of Virginia farmers and growers through the Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) Program and has been tracking their successes for more than 20 years now.

These grants help operations across the commonwealth expand their market opportunities by developing and packaging new products for farmers market, online and direct farm sales. The maximum award for working capital grants is $250,000 with up to $75,000 available for planning projects. Every new item created and sold is another “blue ribbon” for this partnership initiative, which kicked off in 2001 with the first award to the Southern States Cooperative and now includes more than 160 projects. 

Virginia has consistently ranked among the top states for numbers of awards and total funding provided. We experienced banner years in 2015 and 2016, awarding 29 and 19 projects respectively. Those numbers put us first and second in the nation in those years for total grants and number one for funding (more than $3 million). The grand total for state awards now stands at $23.2 million.

“While most of our programs are only available in areas designated as rural, VAPG applicants can be located anywhere in the state,” said Perry Hickman, USDA Rural Development Virginia State Director. “They don’t have to meet income requirements or be considered beginning farmers. We’re actually looking for operations that already have an established track record of success.”

USDA Rural Development believes that it “takes a village” to support successful business enterprises. We have established a strong partnership with the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Sustainability (VA FAIRS) to help producers identify and pursue new markets. VA FAIRS offers rural business and enterprise development services for creating plans and securing financing and grants. 

Laurette Tucker spearheads the Virginia program, nurturing a “family” of grant recipients that have become our best VAPG advertisement (see accompanying infographic for program highlights). Over the past 20-plus years, 22 repeat customers received funding for two or more projects. Participants include beef and pork producers, dairies, fruit and vegetable operations and vineyards. In fact, Virginia Rural Development has really been in the giving “spirit” when it comes to supporting the state’s wineries, breweries and distilleries with 38 awards since 2005 to expand capacity of these operations and market associated products and venues.

The agency has also helped numerous minority and women-owned businesses in the commonwealth achieve their visions of success. Funds have been provided to help family-owned enterprises like Goldman Farms develop packaging and marketing materials to expand the customer base for their produce. A FY22 grant awarded to Green Hills Garden & Nursery will support packaging of raw tea leaves for sale to retail customers through a company website and wholesale accounts.

USDA is making $31 million in grant funding available nationwide in FY 2023. Electronic applications will be accepted via Grants.gov until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on May 11, 2023. Complete paper applications for Virginia projects may be submitted to the State Office in Richmond by close of business on May 16, 2023. Envelopes must be postmarked and mailed, shipped or sent overnight, hand carried or emailed by this date. 

Interested producers should reach out to Laurette Tucker at (434) 439-3588 or laurette.tucker@usda.gov to discuss their proposed projects and begin assembling the required documentation. Funding priority will be given to beginning farmers who are military veterans or socially disadvantaged individuals, small and mid-sized farms and farmer cooperatives. Additional information is available on page 16396 of the March 17 Federal Register or by contacting your local USDA Rural Development office.

Under the Biden-Harris Administration, Rural Development provides loans, grants and loan guarantees to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, Tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, promoting competition and fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.

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