by Ken Root and Whitney Newman
A jewel of USDA programs is Rural Economic Development. It once focused only on rural housing, but now has many other elements including Producer Value Added Grants. The money can be used to develop new products, and create new uses for existing ones. Many Iowa farms and entrepreneurs have benefited over the past ten years.
USDA recently announced $44 million available for value-added grants for farmers and ranchers through the Value-Added Producer Grant program. Ray Hanson with the Ag Marketing Research center explains the program, “The Value-Added Producer Grant Programs are designed to help small and medium farmers, ranchers, and businesses get started. These grants fit really well into the objective and goals.”
The grants are broken into two different categories. Farmers can apply for a Planning Grant or Working Capitol Grants. Hanson says, “The Planning Grant, is a cap of $75,000 and are used for business plans, market analysis, or feasibility studies. Working Capitol Grants, are capped at $250,000 which are along the lines of developing marketing, which includes advertising, packaging, and labeling. They are not used for buildings, equipment, and those kind of things.” Previous grant recipients have used the grants for customer feedback, new packaging to display products better, and updated marketing.
The best place to start is by contacting USDA Rural Development for Iowa, located in Des Moines. Approximately $44 million is available in 2016. Paper applications are due July 1 and electronic submissions must be made by June 24, 2016 on www.grants.gov or (www.agmrc.org)