USDA Program Boosts Small and Family Ag Producers

Small farm and ranch businesses just got a boost from the U.S. Department of Agriculture! Through the Value Added Producer Grant Program, USDA is investing $25 million in 247 businesses in 46 states. The funds will be used to create or expand value-added agricultural products.

The Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program is a competitive grants program. It is targeted to beginning, socially disadvantaged, veteran, and small and mid-size family farmers and ranchers. Grants can be used to support business and marketing planning. Or they can fund feasibility studies to test out new niche markets or provide working capital to support a value-added enterprise.

We advocated to create this program back in 2000. We’ve worked ever since to make improvements, especially in farm bill debates. In a great move, the 2014 Farm Bill prioritized projects that best serve beginning and small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers. A new priority was added for returning veteran farmers and ranchers as well.

One of the projects awarded in our home state of Nebraska went to Prairie Pride Poultry of York, established in 2013 by Dan Hromas. Dan is a disabled veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He is the second veteran farmer in the country, and the first in Nebraska, to be certified under the Homegrown by Heroes initiative.

Dan’s award will support marketing and delivery of his locally produced farm-fresh eggs. They come from his heritage-breed Rhode Island Red hens raised on pasture. Dan sells his eggs to three grocery stores. When supplies are ample, he also sells them to Chances R, a fantastic family-owned restaurant in York. Dan also sells through a nearby farmers market once a month.

When I spoke to Dan about this grant, he wanted to make sure I include the fact that he is a disabled veteran. Dan wants to help other veterans who are interested in farming access programs like the Value Added Producer Grant program and the Homegrown by Heroes initiative. If you know a veteran Dan could help, you can find Prairie Pride Poultry here on Facebook and here on Twitter.

Feature image: These heritage-breed Rhode Island Reds gather for some nourishment. | Photo by Prarie Pride Poultry