USDA Value-Added Producer Grants Expand Farm Businesses: Apply By July 1

by Deirdre Birmingham, guest contributor 

Deirdre Birmingham wears two hats in the farming arena. She is a grants advisor who assists farmers in applying for government funding. She provided the following article about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program, which is accepting applications through July 1 for grants from a pool of money that totals $44 million.

And Birmingham knows whereof she speaks about VAPG. She and her husband John Biondi own The Cider Farm, a past VAPG recipient that grows heirloom apple varieties in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, and converts them into hard cider and apple brandy. The Cider Farm recently was a Fellow participant in FamilyFarmed’s six-month Good Food Business Accelerator program.

 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) Program has released $44 million in available funding this year. It is the largest pot ever offered in this program that assists farmers who are processing food items they produce into value-added products for market.

This also means the next two years will have significantly less funding, so this is the right time for farmers interested in value-added production to make their move.

Applications must be postmarked by July 1.

Deirdre Birmingham, the author of this article, and husband John Biondi received a USDA Value-Added Producer Grant for The Cider Farm, their business that grows heirloom apples and produces hard cider and apple brandy.

Deirdre Birmingham, the author of this article, and husband John Biondi received a USDA Value-Added Producer Grant for The Cider Farm, their business that grows heirloom apples and produces hard cider and apple brandy. Photo: Bob Benenson/FamilyFarmed

This is a great opportunity to plan a value-added business or to help fund early-stage working capital expenses.  Grants of up to $75,000 for business planning and up to $250,000 for working capital are available.

A 50 percent match from the applicant is required, but some of that can be in-kind.

There is more good news: “Value-added” is defined quite generously by the USDA.   In fact, there are five ways to add value that may qualify under the Value-Added Producer Grant program.

The term is not limited to changing the physical state of your raw product. It can pertain to the fact that you are marketing and branding your raw product as local; or according to your means of production, such as grass-fed; or by physical segregation and identity preservation of your raw product, such as non-GMO corn.  Projects producing renewable energy from one’s own bio-based products can also be considered value-added.

The application is long and detailed, requiring much thought and thorough explanations.  So please, start now at http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/value-added-producer-grants to find out if it can help you achieve your business goals.  Contact your state’s USDA Rural Development office to find out if you and your business needs meet eligibility requirements using the link above.

Also use free Grants Advising made available through the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute.  [Editor’s  note: Contact Grants Advisor Deirdre Birmingham at deirdreb4@gmail..com  or 608-219-4279.  You are welcome to be on her email list of funding program announcements so that you know about funding opportunities ASAP!]

 

 

 

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