By John Crabtree
Center for Rural Affairs
Whether enabling dairy farmers to expand their line of product offerings or helping farm families start businesses for unique products or providing capital for the creation of farm-identity preserved regional supply chains, USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program has been helping thousands of farmers and ranchers around the country expand their customer base and income by creating new or developing existing value-added businesses.
These grants assist farmers and ranchers in starting or expanding ventures that increase the value of raw farm and ranch products and market unique and high-quality food products, including local, natural, and organic foods.
Developing entrepreneurial farm and ranch ventures is one the best strategies for creating jobs and expanding economic opportunities in rural and small town America. Moreover, the VAPG program helps foster entrepreneurship, keep wealth in rural communities, enhance farm and ranch profitability, revive rural mainstreets and create opportunities for young families to return to rural America.
Application deadlines are rapidly approaching, however. USDA has $30 million in funding nationally through this competitive grant program. The deadline to submit paper applications is July 7th and electronic applications submitted through grants.gov are due July 2nd.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has put together a farmer’s’ guide to the program. You can find that at the following web address: http://sustainableagriculture.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/2015-VAPG-Application-Guide-NSAC-May-2015.pdf. And USDA awards these grants on at least an annual basis, so, it never hurts to start looking at the program now for next year’s funding round.