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Blog: Grants to help farmers increase value of products
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Oct. 2, 2012 6 p.m.

Illinois USDA Rural Development State Director Colleen Callahan has invited agricultural producers to apply for grants to increase the value of their products.
"The Value Added Producer Grant program helps farmers with the capital they need to develop their value-added business and pursue marketing opportunities," Callahan said. "These grants can be a catalyst to expand their product offerings, improve their revenue streams and create more economic opportunity by bringing additional value to what they already produce."
Independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, majority-controlled producer-based business ventures, and agricultural producer groups are eligible to apply. Applications are due October 15, 2012.
USDA Rural Development is making up to $14 million in grants available for projects that help farmers and ranchers produce bio-based products from agricultural commodities. The grants, which are competitively awarded, are available for planning activities or for working capital expenses, but not for both. The maximum grant amount is $100,000 for planning grants and $300,000 for working capital grants. Generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities and increasing producer income are the goals of the VAPG program.
For information on how to apply, see page 48951 of the August 15, 2012 Federal Register, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-08-15/pdf/2012-20082.pdf.
Last year's Illinois VAPG recipients included Living Water Farms, Inc. that produces hydroponic green for specialty markets in the Midwest. Located in Strawn, two hours south of Chicago's Loop, they built a hydroponic complex that allows them to consider year-round sales. Living Water Farms was awarded a VAPG last year to expand the market for their greens and now market to Illinois supermarkets, high-end restaurants in Chicago and St. Louis and a Midwest college food service program. The grant helped them evaluate their brand and expand their distribution to other restaurants, specialty retail and institutional outlets.
One of the other Illinois recipients was the Marcoot family who milks Jersey cows in Southern Illinois. In 2010, they built a small farmstead Creamery on the farm where they process all of their milk into Jersey-based artisan cheeses. In order to better meet the demand of their local markets, Marcoot Jersey Farm, Inc. used the grant to diversify its products and now produce 12 cheese varieties exclusively from their milk.
Businesses of all sizes are encouraged to apply, but priority will be given to operators of small and medium-sized farms or ranches that are structured as family farms, beginning farmers or ranchers, or those owned by socially-disadvantaged farmers or ranchers. Grants are available for projects up to 36 months in duration.
For information on how to apply, see page 48951 of the August 15, 2012 Federal Register, USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).
Rural Development has more than 40 programs that foster growth and economic stability in rural areas by providing affordable financing and technical assistance. Support is available for regional food systems, broadband and biofuel infrastructure, homeownership, business development and community needs. More information on USDA Rural Development programs is available on the web at www.rurdev.usda.gov/il .

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