May 2, 2013
On May 1, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG) awards to over 110 agricultural producers. The grant awards totaled nearly $16.8 million. The funding came from the $14 million appropriation for VAPG in the FY 2012 Appropriations Bill as well as $2.8 million from earlier years.
The Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG) program provides competitive grants to individual independent agricultural producers, groups of independent producers, producer-controlled entities, organizations representing agricultural producers, and farmer or rancher cooperatives to create or develop value-added producer-owned businesses. VAPG grants may be used to fund business and marketing plans and feasibility studies or to acquire working capital to operate a value-added business venture or alliance. Working capital applications must be supported by an independent feasibility study as well as a business plan.
The 2013 grants were awarded to farmers and ranchers in 43 states in addition to Puerto Rico and Guam. Virginia, California, Missouri, and New York, in that order, lead the way in terms of highest grant volume. Only Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Louisiana, Montana, New Hampshire and North Dakota came away empty in this particular grant cycle.
Dairies in twelve states received fifteen VAPG awards for production and marketing or feasibility studies for artisanal and specialty cheeses made on the farm. In addition, the Burbach Countryside Dairy in Nebraska, which already produces a wide array of cheeses, received an award to increase its line of fluid milk products. There was also an emphasis on wine and cider in the 2012 VAPG Awards, with seven of the awards to grape wineries around the country, four awards for hard cider production and marketing projects, and one award for brandy and vodka production.
The NSAC press release on the VAPG announcement references several examples of grants made in different value-added categories.
NSAC congratulates Georgia farmer Will Harris for receiving an award to use as working capital for his farm’s new ready to eat meat and vegetable line of products. This is a second VAPG award for Will. He used the first award as matching funds to get the only processing facility for pastured poultry in the South up and running. Harris has participated in NSAC farmer fly-ins. Kudos also to Thompson Creeks Organic, a farm certified organic by NSAC member Oregon Tilth. The farm will use its new award to provide working capital to produce, license, and market hard apple cider. The processed cider will be bottled, labeled and marketed to local retail stores in the Southern Oregon region.
For a complete list of the new Value-Added Producer Grant award recipients, click here.
NSAC is a long time champion of VAPG. We fought for the program’s inception in the 2000 Agricultural Risk Protection Act. Since its enactment, we have worked to increase and maintain 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 enterprises, a stronger focus on small and mid-sized agriculture, mid-tier value chains, and increased attention to underserved areas and populations.
The VAPG program is featured in two bills recently introduced in Congress. Both bills – the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act (S. 679 and H.R. 1414) and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (S. 837 and H.R. 1727) – propose to fund the VAPG program at $20 million a year in mandatory funding for the 2013 Farm Bill. Last year, the Senate-passed Farm Bill and the House Committee-passed Farm Bill included the equivalent of $10 million a year in farm bill funding for VAPG. NSAC is urging both the House and Senate to fund the program at $20 million annually. This level, while an increase over current funding levels, is only half the level provided by the 2002 Farm Bill.