The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development recently announced that several new rural business projects with Farmers Union ties were awarded Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG).
This year, USDA awarded 97 out of 400 applicants with $13.1 million for assistance in marketing value-added agricultural products and developing alternative sources of renewable energy. Federal funding will cover up to half of the total cost for projects planned in 34 states. VAPG grants for producer-led projects of Farmers Union and related producer groups include:
California: $150,000 to the Community Alliance with Family Farmers for expanding an existing project aimed at developing community-supported and sustainable food systems that advance local economic activity, care for the land and family-scale agriculture.
Colorado: $128,000 to the Wray Farmer-Owned Wind Farm Group to form a cooperative that would serve and provide technical assistance to community-based and individual-based alternative energy projects primarily focused on wind.
Missouri: $249,140 to facilitate further development of the Gateway Beef Cooperative, a beef processing and marketing co-op that plans to sell premium niche beef products to restaurants and steak houses.
Missouri: $49,766 to Green Hills Harvest for advancing organic grass-based dairy processing operations with glass bottling.
Oklahoma: $235,000 to Oklahoma Farmers and Ranchers Energy Enterprise for determining the feasibility of constructing and operating a co-op processing plant that would add value to oilseeds and position farmers within the developing energy market.
According to National Farmers Union President Dave Frederickson, NFU has been an advocate of the VAPG program since the mid-1990s. The annual competitive federal VAPG grants program was first authorized by the Agriculture Risk Protection Act of 2000 and was later amended and included in the 2002 farm law.
“The renewal of rural America through increased business and agriculture cooperative development remains at the forefront of Farmers Union's mission,”
Frederickson said. “These funds for value-added agricultural marketing and processing will spur opportunities for farmers, ranchers and producer groups to refine their commodities and increase the value of farm-produced food, fiber and energy in the marketplace.”
Frederickson said NFU's only regrets are that the administration and Congress cut annual funding from $40 million and switched the program to discretionary.