U.S.D.A. invests in agricultural entrepreneurs

by Eric Schroeder
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LOUDON, N.H. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to invest $25 million to help 247 businesses across the United States expand their operations and create new products. The funding is being provided through the U.S.D.A. Rural Development’s Value-Added Producer Grant program and is geared toward helping agricultural producers grow their businesses by turning raw commodities into value-added products, expanding marketing opportunities and developing new uses for existing products.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the funding will have “far-reaching, positive impacts in rural communities across the country.”

“The investments will help businesses create new products, expand their operations, and support local and regional food systems,” Mr. Vilsack said. “The new farm bill expands this program to provide even more of these opportunities.”

Since 2009, the U.S.D.A. has awarded 863 value-added producer grants totaling $108 million. Twenty per cent of the grants and 16% of total funding has been awarded to beginning farmers and ranchers. The 2014 farm bill increases mandatory funding for the program from $15 million to $63 million over five years (while also reauthorizing an additional $40 million in discretionary funding).

The grants may be used for a range of purposes. They may support local and regional food systems, further the development of the growing bioeconomy, and finance the distribution of local and regional products.

For example, John’s Farm Oklahoma Family Farm, L.L.C. will receive nearly $200,000 in funding to pay labor costs to produce the organic wheat and wheat‐based products, along with processing, packaging and promotional expenses of Fairview’s Best Organic Wheat Products. Meanwhile, the Agricultural Mechanization Co. in Kansas will receive $30,000 to determine the feasibility of producing flour from wheat and sorghum to be marketed as a locally‐produced food item. Production of locally‐produced gluten‐free flour will provide an additional niche market for the family‐operated farm. Missouri-based McKaskle Family Farms, L.L.C. will receive $200,000 to assist with marketing of organic popcorn and rice that is locally‐grown on the McKaskle Family Farm.
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