The Value Added Producer Grant program, one of the few U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant programs available directly to farmers and ranchers, is now open. In Nebraska, 35 projects were funded by the program in the past two years. The grants help farmers and ranchers offset costs of developing or expanding their added-value products.
USDA Rural Development is accepting applications for the Value Added program, which offers two types of grants, through March 22.
Planning grants of up to $75,000 help pay for feasibility studies and business plans that support future financing and business development. Working Capital grants of up to $250,000 can cover marketing and product development costs. Projects more than $50,000 require a previous feasibility study and business plan to document viability of the product.
Individual farmers and ranchers, as well as some types of farmer and rancher groups and businesses, may apply for funds to develop new products or to expand existing markets for value-added products. Applicants must produce at least 50 percent of the agricultural commodity to which value is being added. Matching funds (in-kind and/or cash) of 50 percent of the project are required.
Registration in federal databases is required to do business with the government; this free process is not immediate, so register early.
A page on the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition website describes the program requirements with examples of eligible products, such as organic or local food crops, renewable energy crops, lightly processed raw commodities, etc. A short video from USDA describes the benefits of the program to a number of farmers and ranchers.
Contact your local USDA Rural Development for application materials and advice on a successful proposal here. In Nebraska, you can reach Brant Richardson at USDA Rural Development at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402.437.5568.
Wyatt Fraas at the Center for Rural Affairs also can advise you on your project ideas. Contact him at email@example.com or 402.254.6893.