Agricultural producers in the CNMI and across the nation are encouraged to apply for a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development's program that would aid agricultural producers increase the value of their products by producing bio-based products from agricultural commodities.
The Value Added Producer Grant program has up to $14 million worth of grants available to help farmers and ranchers meet the program's goals, which are generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities, and increasing producer income.
Competitively awarded, the grants are available for planning activities or for working capital expenses, but not for both. For planning grants, the maximum grant amount is $100,000, while the cap for working capital grants is $300,000.
“The funds in this program enable America's farmers, ranchers, and rural business owners to find ways to expand their product offerings, revenue streams and create more economic opportunity by bringing additional value to what they already produce,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
“Producers can greatly enhance the bottom line of their businesses and improve their economic prospects when they improve the value of their products, thus expanding their markets and customer base,” he added.
Vilsack underscored that many producers are missing out on “significant” economic opportunities when their products are enhanced further away from the farm.
“When our producers keep their value-added activities closer to the farm, it not only improves their bottom line; it strengthens our rural economy and strengthens our rural communities,” he said.
While businesses of all sizes are encouraged to apply, priority will be given to operators of small and medium-sized farms or ranches that are structured as family farms, beginning farmers or ranchers, or those owned by socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers.
Among the beneficiaries of the VAPG program are Unruh Greenhouse LLC in West Union, Iowa, which received a working capital grant to process and package local produce for nearby grocery stores, universities, and hospitals; and Schmidt Farms Inc. in Rawlins County, Kansas, a family farm that has been in the meat business for 25 years and received a working capital grant to expand the market for their product lines which are marketed as being produced locally and produced farm fresh.
Grants under the VAPG program are available for projects up to 36 months in duration. Deadline for application is on October 15.
For information on how to apply, see page 48951 of the August 15, 2012 Federal Register, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-08-15/pdf/2012-20082.pdf or contact the Rural Development office in Guam at (671) 472-7361.