Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is making $30 million available to farmers, ranchers and food entrepreneurs to develop new product lines. Funding will be made available through USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program.

“Farmers and ranchers are creative people who, with a little help, can put that creativity to work and improve the bottom line for their operations,” Vilsack said. “Value-Added Producer Grants enable them to develop new product lines to grow their businesses and expand their contributions to our nation’s economy. This support is especially important for beginning farmers, military veterans engaging in farming and smaller farm operations participating in the local and regional food system.”

“Investing in the creative ideas of innovative Texans will result in a positive step towards rural economic and community development,” said Paco Valentin, Texas Rural Development State Director. “We are pleased to offer this opportunity to farmers, ranchers and producers whose endeavors will strengthen rural communities and fuel innovation.”

More information on how to apply is on page 26528 of the May 8 Federal Register (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-08/html/2015-10440.htm).  Please direct any additional questions to the Texas USDA Rural Development State Office at (254) 742-9780.  The deadline to submit paper applications is July 7.  Electronic applications submitted through grants.gov are due July 2.

VAPG grants can be used to develop new product lines from raw agricultural products or additional uses for already developed product lines. Military veterans, socially disadvantaged, and beginning farmers and ranchers; operators of small- and medium-sized family farms and ranches; farmer and rancher cooperatives; and applicants that propose mid-tier value chain projects are given special priority in applying for VAPGs. Additional priority is given to group applicants who seek funding for projects that “best contribute” to creating or increasing marketing opportunities for these type of operators.

Since 2009, USDA has awarded 853 Value-Added Producer Grants totaling $104.5 million. Approximately 19 percent of the grants and 13 percent of total funding has been awarded to beginning farmers and ranchers. During the 2013-2014 funding cycle, nearly half of VAPG awards went to farmers and ranchers developing products for the local food sector. Value-Added Producer Grants are a key element of the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, which coordinates the Department’s work on local and regional food systems. Secretary Vilsack has identified local and regional food systems as one of the four pillars of rural economic development.

Congress increased funding for the VAPG program when it passed the 2014 Farm Bill. That law builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.  For information on this and other USDA Rural Development programs in Texas, visit http://www.rd.usda.gov/tx.