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Deadline Extended for USDA Value-Added Producer Grants

By Staff | Apr 3, 2014

LYONS, NEB. (USDA) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced an extension for grant applications for the Value-Added Producer Grant program.

The extension was made necessary by changes to the program included in the 2014 Farm Bill that was recently signed into law. The new grant deadline is April 8, 2014.

“In rural and small town America, the best way to create jobs and expand economic opportunity is fostering entrepreneurship and small business,” said Traci Bruckner, Assistant Director of Policy at the Center for Rural Affairs. “On America’s country roads that means value added agriculture and niche marketing. Such entrepreneurship keeps wealth in rural communities, enhances farm and ranch profitability, revives rural mainstreets and helps young families get a start in agriculture.”

Bruckner encouraged farmers or ranchers needing planning or working capital funds in order to move their value-added ideas forward, to check out the Value-Added Producer Grants program.

“In particular, we urge returning Armed Forces veterans to consider accessing these grants,” added Bruckner. The extension will allow those who have already submitted funding applications to revise their proposals if the new addition of returning Armed Forces veteran farmers to the program’s priorities is applicable to their proposal.

According to the Federal Register, the term “veteran farmer or rancher” means a farmer or rancher who has served in the Armed Forces and who has not operated a farm or ranch; or has operated a farm or ranch for not more than 10 years.

Agricultural producers, businesses majority-owned by agricultural producers, and organizations representing agricultural producers are eligible to apply for Value Added Producer Grants 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.

Farmers and ranchers can find a working proposal template for the Value Added Producer Grant Program at the following weblink – www.rurdev.usda.gov/bcpvapg.html

Additionally, in an effort to assist farmers and ranchers applying for a grant, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition just re-issued their Farmers’ Guide to Value-Added Producer Grant Funding. The guide (available free at sustainableagriculture.net/publications/) includes clear information on new program rules and contains a step-by-step description of the application and ranking processes, with helpful hints to improve a producer’s chances of obtaining funding from the highly competitive program.

It also describes the program priorities for small and medium-sized family farms, beginning farmers and ranchers, socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and mid-tier value chains (regional supply networks with active farmer participation).

Bruckner encouraged applicants 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. While the extension may not offer much help to those just starting out on a proposal, there will be future funding rounds, and for applicants, especially first-time applicants, the additional time could make all the difference.

“At the Center for Rural Affairs, we have a lock track-record of offering help to farmers and ranchers in accessing programs such as these. And there is other help available, because these grants are popular and quite competitive,” commented Bruckner.

Bruckner went on to explain that the Center for Rural Affairs continues to offer as much help to producers as possible during the application period by operating a Farm Bill Helpline where producers can call (402) 687-2100 and ask for the Farm Bill Helpline to receive assistance in understanding the Value Added Producer Grants Program.

“The Farm Bill Helpline provides a direct connection to Center staff with knowledge about the rules of these programs to help applicants and potential applicants understand if the program will fit their needs,” continued Bruckner.

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 Value Added Producer Grant 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.

The Center for Rural Affairs has also created Value Added Fact Sheets and other additional information, which can be accessed at www.cfra.org/node/2672.

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