Tips for a successful USDA value-added producer grant

Preparation for a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Value Added Producer Grantplanning grant or working capital takes time. A thorough understanding of requirements and an early start can help you complete application by August 29, 2011.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that applications will be accepted for Value Added Producer Grant due August 29, 2011. According to the USDA 2011 Value Added Producer Grant Overview, the goal is to expand markets for, and increase financial returns to the agricultural producer-owner of the value-added products. Eligible agricultural producers, cooperatives or related producer-owned groups may apply for planning grants or working capital grants.

The grant application encompasses a variety of factors and components and, as such, requires a clear understanding of program requirements, documentation, and proposed value-added activity. To aid in the process, a few pointers may help get you started.

  • Understand the Value Added Producer Grant by doing a little research. The Ag Market Research Center’s website provides explanations, resources, and links about the program and process.
  • Conceptualize the value added proposal you wish to fund. Depending upon the stage of development, the type of activity, and the size of the grant, you may be required to complete additional studies and plans.
  • Contact the Michigan USDA Rural Development at (517) 324-5157 to identify the area specialist for your business. Talk with them about what will be required concerning such areas as the project idea, eligibility status, matching funds, documentation and evaluation criteria.
  • Understand what constitutes a successful proposal by reviewing previous grants.
  • Assemble and document sources of matching funds. The grant requires a 1:1 match of cash, approved loans or lines of credit, and certain in-kind contributions.
  • Obtain letters of intent from businesses that have interest in buying your value-added product.
  • Improve your chances of being funded by maximizing your evaluation points, and completing the application exactly as requested.
  • Have an objective review of your application to be sure that the grant proposal is clearly understood and comprehensive.

If you find that the process is more than you can complete by the deadline, do not lose hope! You can nurture your great idea over the next year. There are available community resources available for assisting individuals with business concepts in addition to the Michigan State University Product Center

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