By Katie Fisher, government relations intern, National Farmers Union

jam-at-farm-stand-credit-USDAThe United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development’s (RD) Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program is now accepting applications for fiscal year 2016. The application is due by July 1, 2016 and has approximately $44 million in funds available to producers who are entering into value-added activities. The VAPG program’s main goals are to generate new products, create and expand market opportunities, and increase producer income.

The VAPG program offers two types of grants: planning grants and working capital grants. There is a maximum of $75,000 for planning grants (i.e. hiring a consultant) and $250,000 for working capital investments. Types of value-added activities that are eligible for grants include: commodity processing, market differentiation, commodity segregation, on-farm renewable energy, local food, and mid-tier value chain.

The application for the VAPG gives priority scoring to beginning farmers, veterans, socially disadvantaged, beginning or socially disadvantaged producer groups, mid-tier value chain, small or medium-sized farm structures, and cooperatives. Applications are ranked on a 100-point scale, with the minimum requirement for eligibility set at 50 points. Funds will then be allotted to applicants based off their scoring from highest-to-lowest until the funds are expended.

Agricultural Marketing Research Service (AgMRC), an organization of universities that are partially funded by the USDA Rural Development grant, conducted case studies of past VAPG recipients. These case studies provide the background as to why the producer applied, how much they received, and how it has benefitted them. We strongly encourage you to visit their site and read about the many successful stories of recipients of the VAPG program.

The anticipated award date for the VAPG is September 30, 2016. Applications must be post-marked or submitted online before the deadline of July 1. Applying is highly recommended to anyone who fits the criteria listed on the Federal Register notice, which is also a good source for more details regarding the application process. For more information regarding the VAPG program, please visit this NFU fact sheet.

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