Boosting Entrepreneurship in Rural America

In rural and small town America, the best way to create jobs and expand economic opportunity is fostering entrepreneurship and small business. On America’s country roads that means value added agriculture and niche marketing. Such entrepreneurship keeps wealth in rural communities, enhances farm and ranch profitability, revives rural mainstreets and helps young families get a start in agriculture.

For over a decade, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made Value Added Producer Grants that assist farmers and ranchers in starting and expanding ventures that increase the value of raw farm and ranch products. These ventures include both niche marketing - local, natural, grass-fed, organic, etc. - and processing of crops, produce or livestock.

Right now, the USDA has $10.5 million available to fund grants to develop value-added agricultural businesses. There is a priority for funding proposals from socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers or ranchers, and small- to mid-size family farms and ranches. And ten percent of funding is reserved specifically for beginning farmers and ranchers and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. February 24, 2014 is the application deadline.

Farmers and ranchers - especially those just getting started - who are interested in a value added venture should give this grant program a serious look. Farmers and ranchers can call our Farm Bill Helpline to learn more about this grant program and other resources by calling 402.687.2100, or emailing You can find our fact sheet and additional information here.