USDA Rural Development National Value-added Producer Grant opens

Farmers are invited to apply for planning or operating funds through Jan. 31, 2018.

Applications are now being accepted under the USDA Rural Development National Value-added Producer Grant program from agricultural producers and eligible groups to process, enhance, and/or market their goods in order to increase business sustainability. The Notice of Solicitation of Application (NOSA) was published in the Federal Register on Aug. 29, 2017. Proposals are due Jan. 31, 2018. Applications materials including the NOSA, Applicant Tool Kit, links to required forms and other important application resources are available at: http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/value-added-producer-grants

Eligible applicants include agricultural producers and groups who actively grow, manage and control at least 51 percent of a commodity. Farmer cooperatives, certain non-profit grower entities and majority-controlled businesses are examples of groups who will be considered. Beginning, veteran farmer, socially-disadvantaged, operator of a small or medium sized family farm, cooperatives, mid-tier value chain project and group applicants are eligible for priority points.

Value-added projects are those that process a raw product, enhance a commodity, physically segregate a commodity, create a locally-produced food and establish farm-based energy operation or market an agriculture product. Examples include selling farm-raised meats, packing individual servings of fruits, separating of non-GE soybeans, processing corn into bio-fuel and developing a marketing campaign for a new winery.

Grants are limited to $75,000 for planning purposes and $250,000 for working capital. This grant requires a dollar-for-dollar match in the form of cash or eligible in-kind contributions. Planning grants support third-party feasibility studies and marketing and/or business plan development. Operating grants may be applied to the cost of processing or marketing a product. Certain restrictions apply to operating fund grants over $50,000. Land, buildings and equipment, grant preparation, research and development, engineering or architectural, agricultural production-related expenses are not eligible under the program.

 Michigan State University Extension and the MSU Product Center assist in the development of high-value businesses in food, agricultural and natural resources sectors. Visit www.productcenter.msu.edu to request free business counseling. Online resources for proposal development include MarketMaker market research tools, and the Agricultural Market Research Center.

An estimated $18 million is allocated nationally for the USDA Rural Development National Value Added Grant Program which is administered by the USDA Rural Development State Office. Michigan-based USDA staff Bobbie Morrison and Natalie Garr encourage interested parties to contact them prior to proposal submission by calling 517-324-5157.