WASHINGTON - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced the availability of nearly $10.5 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants to help agricultural producers enter into value-added activities designed to give them a competitive business edge.
"U.S. agriculture is responsible for millions of American jobs - both directly and indirectly," Vilsack said. "Supporting farmers and related businesses strengthens rural economies and helps fuel innovation and product development. It's also an important part of USDA programs that link farmers to their communities, and it underscores the many benefits of local and regional food systems."
The funding is being made available through the Value-Added Producer Grant program. Grants are available to help agricultural producers create new products, expand marketing opportunities, support further processing of existing products or goods, or to develop specialty and niche products.
They may be used for working capital and planning activities. The maximum working capital grant is $200,000; the maximum planning grant is $75,000.
Eligible applicants include independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, and agricultural producer groups. Funding priority is given to socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers or ranchers, and to small- to medium-sized family farms, or farmer/rancher cooperatives.
The Value-Added Producer Grant program is one of many USDA programs that support the development of strong local and regional food systems as part of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative.
Grant applications are due by Feb. 24, 2014. More information about how to apply is available on page 70260
of the Nov. 25 www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-11-25/pdf/2013-28175.pdf Federal Register, or by contacting any USDA Rural Development state office.