By Barbara Patterson, government relations representative, National Farmers Union

The renewal of rural America through increased business and agriculture cooperative development remains at the forefront of Farmers Union’s mission. One program for these purposes is the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG), something NFU has been an advocate for since the mid-1990s. NFU voiced its support for the program during the 2014 Farm Bill debate, and Congress listened. Earlier today, USDA Rural Business – Cooperative Service announced the opening of applications for the program.

Approximately $30 million is available for competitive awards for fiscal year 2015 to fund activities related to value-added products. Priority is given to beginning farmers and ranchers, socially-disadvantaged farmers or ranchers, small and medium-sized family farms, farmer or rancher cooperatives, or mid-tier value chains.

Grants can be used for planning activities or other expenses related to creating additional value-added products such as processing costs, marketing and advertising expenses, or inventory and salary expense. Some examples from fiscal year 2014 awards include funds awarded to:

  1. Tomichi Creek Natural Beef in Colorado to assist with processing and packaging costs associated with selling grassfed beef in individual packages.
  2. Idaho’s Bounty Co-op Inc. to pay labor, marketing, and distribution costs for marketing and delivery of local meat, eggs, cheese, poultry, fruit, vegetables, and value-added products to additional regions.
  3. Only Ewe LLC in Missouri to assist with the expansion of sheep’s milk yogurt production and to help launch new aged cheese and ice cream.

The grant program has a maximum of $75,000 for planning grants and $250,000 for working capital grants and requires a 50 percent match of total costs.

Applications are due by July 7, 2015. For help with any questions, contact your local Rural Development office.

The Federal Register notice has more details about the requirements of the VAPG application process and is available here: To read more previous VAPG awards, visit:

Today, USDA also released for comment the final rule to implement the changes in the VAPG program from the 2014 Farm Bill. Comments are due July 7, 2015. The notice is available here with instructions on how to comment:

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