FAQ: USDA recently announced the availability of a new round of funding for value-added agriculture grants. What type of projects are eligible? Who can apply? What's the deadline?
Answer: Provided by Bill Menner, state director of the USDA Rural Development agency in Iowa. The state office for Rural Development is in Des Moines.
On June 28 USDA announced that grants are available to assist farmers and their producer-owned businesses who want to add value to the commodities they produce on their farms. The deadline for applying for the 2011 Value Added Producer Grant Program administered through USDA Rural Development is August 29.
Value-added products are created when a producer increases the consumer value of an agricultural commodity in the production or processing stage. Value Added Producer Grants from USDA Rural Development can be used for planning that establishes a viable value-added marketing opportunity, or for working capital to operate a value-added business.
The USDA's notice of funding which appeared in the Federal Register combines two year's worth of funding for the program, making a total of $37 million available nationwide for new value-added projects.
What can value-added producer grants be used for?
"This grant program can help with the development of local foods systems and can spur the economy by supporting local producers," says Menner. "I encourage producers interested in starting or expanding their value-added business to give us a call."
* Grants are available to independent producers, agricultural producer groups, farmer or rancher cooperatives, and majority-controlled, producer-based business ventures.
* Planning grants can be used for feasibility studies, marketing and/or business plans. Grant funds can be used to pay consultants who guide producers through the development processes. The planning activities must be related to the marketing of a value-added product.
* Working capital grants can be used to pay the operating expenses of new ventures just starting out.
Application information and help are available
Since 2001, 130 businesses in Iowa have been awarded more than $21 million in grant funds through this nationally competitive program.
Examples of previous grant recipients in Iowa include wineries, branded meat marketers, as well as pork, specialty soy oil and cheese and milk processors.
Application information, including a link to the eligibility rules and application procedures included in the June 28, 2011 Federal Register can be found at www.rurdev.usda.gov/ia by clicking on Business and Cooperative and then Grant Programs.
Contact the nearest USDA Rural Development office
USDA Rural Development has 11 offices across the state serving the 1.7 million Iowans living in rural areas and communities. Office locations include a State Office in Des Moines, along with Area Offices in Albia, Atlantic, Humboldt, Indianola, Iowa Falls, Le Mars, Mount Pleasant, Storm Lake, Tipton and Waverly.
USDA Rural Development is an equal opportunity lender with a variety of direct and guaranteed rural credit programs involving single and multi-family housing, community facilities, water and sewer development and business and industry programs.
Further information on the value-added grant program and other programs offered by USDA Rural Development is available by calling the state office in Des Moines at (515) 284-4663, by visiting www.rurdev.usda.gov/ia online or by contacting any of the local area offices.
If you have specific questions or need details on USDA farm programs, contact your local USDA Farm Service Agency or other appropriate USDA agency office. And be sure to read the regular column of "Frequently Asked Questions about the Farm Program" appearing in each issue of Wallaces Farmer magazine and at WallacesFarmer.com.