USDA announces $25 million for agricultural entrepreneurs to turn commodities into value-added products

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Farm Forum

LOUDON, N.H. – On August 19, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack highlighted the importance of rural entrepreneurs to the U.S. economy and announced investments to help rural businesses grow, diversify and create jobs. USDA is investing $25 million to help 247 businesses nationwide expand their operations and create new products to market, Secretary Vilsack said during a visit to Miles Smith Farm in Loudon, N.H., a recipient of one of the grants.

The funding is being provided through USDA Rural Development’s Value-Added Producer Grant program. The program helps agricultural producers grow their businesses by turning raw commodities into value-added products, expanding marketing opportunities and developing new uses for existing products.

“The funding we are announcing today will have far-reaching, positive impacts in rural communities across the country,” Vilsack said. “The investments will help businesses create new products, expand their operations, and support local and regional food systems. The new Farm Bill expands this program to provide even more of these opportunities.”

Since 2009, USDA has awarded 863 Value-Added Producer Grants totaling $108 million. Twenty percent of the grants and 16 percent of total funding has been awarded to beginning farmers and ranchers. The 2014 Farm Bill increases mandatory funding for the program from $15 million to $63 million over five years (while also reauthorizing an additional $40 million in discretionary funding).

The grants can be used for a wide range of purposes. They can support local and regional food systems, further the development of the growing bioeconomy, and finance the distribution of local and regional products.

For example, Miles Smith Farm LLC in Loudon, N.H., has been selected for a $127,732 Value-Added Producer Grant to market and produce burgers made from 55 percent grass-fed beef and 45 percent organically raised pork. By mixing ground pork with extra-lean, grass-fed ground beef, the farm can produce a burger with the ideal fat and flavor levels that grass-fed ground beef does not have alone. Miles Smith Farm’s owner calls the mix “the burger that squeals with flavor.” Value-Added Producer Grants often help business develop markets for niche and specialty products.

In neighboring Vermont, North Hollow Farm LLC, in Rochester, is receiving a $161,204 grant to expand processing and marketing of grass-fed beef and natural meats. FarmieMarket Online LLC in Rensselaerville, N.Y., has been selected for a $24,490 grant to expand its online presence for 16 small farmers who produce a broad range of fresh foods that are aggregated and sold online, expanding their customer base.

Value-Added Producer Grants are an element of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which coordinates USDA’s work to support local and regional food systems. Previous Value-Added Producer Grants supporting local and regional projects are mapped on the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food compass.

USDA is awarding Value-Added Producer Grants in 46 states, Puerto Rico and Micronesia. A full list of recipients is available here. Funding for each project is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement.