$37 million available for value-added producer grants

Jul 8, 2011
by WLJ

USDA recently announced that $37 million is available for the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program. A special reserve is set aside for beginning farmers and ranchers and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. The deadline to apply is Aug. 29, 2011.

“Any farmer or rancher needing planning or working capital funds to move their value-added ideas forward should check out the Value-Added Producer Grants program,” said Traci Bruckner, assistant director of policy at the Center for Rural Affairs.

“The 2008 Farm Bill made some important changes to the Value Added Producer Grants Program by giving a priority to projects from beginning and small- and mid-size family farmers and ranchers,” added Bruckner. “Value-added, niche markets are one of the best strategies for creating and maintaining profitability for beginning and small- and mid-size family farmers and ranchers. Those applicants that meet the beginning, small- or mid-size family farm criteria will automatically get 10 points out of a total of 100.”

Agricultural producers, businesses majority-owned by agricultural producers, and organizations representing agricultural producers are eligible to apply for VAPGs for business planning or working capital expenses associated with marketing value-added agricultural products. Agricultural producers include farmers, ranchers, loggers, agricultural harvesters and fishermen that engage in the production or harvesting of an agricultural commodity.

According to Bruckner, the program was created to help producers expand their customer base for the products or commodities they produce. This results in a greater portion of revenues derived from the value-added activity being made available to the producer of the product.

For more information on the VAPG program and how to apply, visit: wwwrur dev.usda.gov/BCP_VAPG_Grants.html. Applicants can also contact their USDA Rural Development (RD) State Office by calling 800/670-6553 and pressing (1). Applicants are encouraged to contact their state USDA RD offices well in advance of the deadline to discuss their projects and ask any questions about the application process.

“These grants are popular and competitive, but help is available,” commented Bruckner.

Bruckner went on to explain that the Center for Rural Affairs is gearing up to help producers as much as possible during the application period by operating a Farm Bill Helpline where producers can call in and receive assistance in accessing the VAPG program.

“The Center for Rural Affairs has a long history of assisting family farmers and ranchers to access farm bill programs,” added Bruckner. “The helpline provides a direct connection to center staff with knowledge about the program rules to help you understand if the program will fit your needs.”

Producers can call 402/687-2100 and ask for the Farm Bill Helpline. During peak demands, such as the four to six weeks before a major grant deadline, producers may have to leave a message and await a response. Or, potential applicants can also contact the Farm Bill Helpline via email by sending an email with “Farm Bill Helpline” in the subject line to tracib@cfra.org. The VAPG is not the only program covered by the center’s Farm Bill Helpline. Assistance is also available for the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative, and a host of Beginning Farmer and Rancher provisions.