On March 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development announced the availability of $19.75 million in total funding for projects as part of the Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG) program.
Individual farmers and ranchers, as well as 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.
In addition to regular funding, applicants may specifically apply for COVID-relief funds allocated to the program. These grant funds require a 10% match, as opposed to the dollar-for-dollar match required for regular funding. Applicants may apply to either or both funding sources; however, separate budgets are required for each.
Two separate grants are available. Planning grants of up to $75,000 help pay for feasibility studies and business planning. 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 product viability.
Priority is given to projects that increase opportunities for small and mid-sized farms, and/or for beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged producers. Additionally, extra points will be awarded for addressing community recovery from COVID-19, among other considerations.
This year, applicants will be required to register for a government identification number (UEI-Unique Entity Identifier). This can take two to five weeks to activate, so applicants are encouraged to register early.
Contact your state USDA Rural Development office for application materials and assistance. Online applications will be accepted until April 25 through grants.gov and paper applications must be postmarked by May 2.