Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced that USDA has selected 298 recipients in 44 states and Puerto Rico to receive business development assistance through the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program. Merrigan made the announcement in Chicago after keynoting the “Local/Regional Food System Conference” hosted at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
“In his State of the Union address last week President Obama was clear that we need to do more to create jobs and promote economic growth. These projects will provide financial returns and help create jobs for agricultural producers, businesses and families across the country,” Merrigan said. “This funding will promote small business expansion and entrepreneurship opportunities by providing local businesses with access capital, technical assistance and new markets for products and services.”
In Wisconsin, 27 agricultural producers received more than $7.1 million in USDA Rural Development assistance under the Value-Added Producer Grant program. For four years Wisconsin has led the nation in both number of grants awarded and dollars received. Since the program’s inception in 2001, USDA Rural Development has funded 110 projects bringing over $21.6 million in grants to the State.
“These grants will improve financial returns and help create jobs for agricultural producers, businesses, and families across rural Wisconsin,” said USDA Rural Development State Director, Stan Gruszynski. ” Rural Development is investing in rural businesses, creating economic diversity, and enhancing the quality of life for rural residents.”
For example, Tony Koyen Farming LLC, located on Washington Island, grows organic hard winter wheat. Grant funds will be used to produce and market Organic Washington Island Wort, which will be used in the manufacturing of distilled spirits. One of the customers seeking this new value added product is Death Door Spirits in Madison, Wis.
In Stratford,Wis., Harmony Specialty Dairy Foods will be using funding to expand their Golden Age Line of artisan cheeses. They plan to develop an aggressive market plan to engage new retailers and distributors, especially in the area of product demos and consumer tasting. Harmony Specialty Dairy Foods is a dairy producer that specializes in making the following artisan cheeses Abergele, Caerphilly, Nut Brown Ale, Kidwelly, Cheshire, and Double Glocester Style Cheeses.
The Value-Added Producer Grants announced today total more than $40.2 million. Funds may be used for feasibility studies or business plans, working capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based renewable energy projects. Eligible applicants include independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, agricultural producer groups, and majority-controlled producer-based business ventures. Value-added products are created when a producer increases the consumer value of an agricultural commodity in the production or processing stage.