The Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG), a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant program available for farmers and ranchers, has received a major funding increase, a lower match requirement, and an application extension.
Applications are now due on April 29 for those applying online and must be postmarked by May 4 for anyone applying by mail.
There are two separate grants available—Planning and Working Capital.
Planning grants of up to $75,000 help pay for feasibility studies and business planning that supports future financing and business development.
Working Capital grants fund up to $250,000 to cover marketing and product development costs. Projects requesting more than $50,000 require a previous feasibility study and business plan to verify viability of the product.
Individual farmers and ranchers, as well as some types of agricultural businesses and producer groups, may apply for the grants, which must be used to develop new products or expand existing markets for value-added products. The applicant must produce at least 50 percent of the raw agricultural product to which value is being added.
Funding for VAPG was increased to $76 million when the Coronavirus relief legislation was passed by Congress in December 2020.
The first round of applications will compete for $35 million and farmers and ranchers must demonstrate they can supply a 10% cash match. Those whose applications scored well, but did not receive a grant in the first round, will be asked to apply again for the remaining $41 million, however, the second round will require applicants to demonstrate they can supply a 100%, or 1-to-1, match which can be a combination of cash and in-kind contributions.
As part of the application process, farmers and ranchers must register in the federal business database, the System for Award Management. Registration is free but not an immediate process, so we encourage applicants to register early, even if they have not decided to pursue a grant.
This page on the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition website describes the program requirements and gives examples of eligible products, such as organic or local food crops, renewable energy crops, lightly processed raw commodities, etc. This short video from the USDA describes the benefits of the program to a number of farmers and ranchers.
Contact your state USDA Rural Development office for application materials and advice on a successful proposal. In Nebraska, you can reach Brant Richardson at USDA Rural Development at email@example.com or 402.437.5568.
For more information on the program, contact Trenton Buhr, policy associate, firstname.lastname@example.org or 402.310.6536, or Wyatt Fraas, Farm & Community assistant director, email@example.com or 402.254.6893.