June 3, 2010
As part of today’s activities associated with the National Rural Summit hosted by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in Hillsboro, Missouri, USDA announced the long-awaited awards for the 2009 round of Value-Added Producer Grants. Read the full press release here.
Some $22.5 million in grants were available. Grants were made in 45 states, with Wisconsin, California, Oregon, and Iowa, in that order, leading the way in terms of highest grant volume. Only Arizona, Delaware, Hawaii, Nevada, and West Virginia came away empty this particular grant cycle, a remarkable achievement given the $22.5 million total.
As the first full cycle since passage of the 2008 Farm Bill, this was the first set of VAPG awards from which to assess how well the agency has responded to the farm bill’s inclusion of local food system development as a program purpose, priority status for projects aiding small and medium-sized farms, and funding set-asides for mid-tier value chain and regional food development project and for projects aiding beginning farmers or minority farmers. Not enough information has been released by USDA yet to make a careful assessment, but some initial clues are available.
The USDA press release highlights two projects awarded as part of the new special funding category for mid-tier value chains. One involved 21 wheat growers in the Northwest who received a $300,000 working capital grant to expand the marketing of their “Shepherd’s Grain” brand. Karl Kupers, a leader of that effort, is one of the featured speakers at the NSAC-hosted USDA and Congressional Briefings next week on agriculture of the middle.
The other regional food supply network grant highlighted by USDA was Wisconsin-based Producers & Buyers Co-op. The cooperative received a $55,000 grant to help link local, sustainable farms with institutional buyers in a 12-county area of West Central Wisconsin. Members of the value chain include the producers plus institutional buyers, food processors, and those from the private transportation system.
A full list of recipients is available at the bottom of the USDA press release. Once we secure additional information on the grant awards from the Rural Business and Cooperative Service, we may post again with additional analysis of the 2009 awards. We also encourage readers to send us information and stories on grant recipients.
VAPG has long been an NSAC priority program. We fought for the program at its inception in 2000 and have worked to increase its funding and expand its mission to include organic food and farming, grass-fed and other sustainable livestock and dairy projects, local and regional food systems, a stronger focus on small and mid-sized agriculture, and increased attention to underserved areas and populations.
Public comments on the recently released VAPG rule are due on June 28. Next week NSAC will issue an action alert calling attention to several major problems with the proposed rule and encouraging readers to contact USDA with these concerns.
The House and Senate Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittees will also be taking up funding for VAPG for 2011 when they mark up the annual agricultural appropriations in June and July. NSAC is urging a $30 million funding level. To help in that effort, respond to this action alert. You can stay on top of agricultural funding issues by signing up for NSAC action alerts.