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USDA announces nearly $1 million for agricultural entrepreneurs to turn commodities into value-added products in Minnesota


Mon, Sep 1st, 2014
Posted in All Government

ST. PAUL, Minn. - USDA Rural Development State Director Colleen Landkamer recently announced nearly $1 million to help seven rural Minnesota businesses and entrepreneurs expand their operations and create new products to market.

The funding is being provided through USDA Rural Development’s Value-Added Producer Grant program. The program helps agricultural producers grow their businesses by turning raw commodities into value-added products, expanding marketing opportunities and developing new uses for existing products.

“These projects create expansion and job opportunities for local producers and small rural businesses,” Landkamer said. “Providing local entrepreneurs and agricultural producers with access to capital, technical assistance and new markets was made possible through support by Congressional leadership and the 2014 Farm Bill.”

Landkamer’s announcement follows Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s recent highlighting of the importance of rural entrepreneurs to the U.S. economy and announced investments to help rural businesses grow, diversify and create jobs. USDA is investing $25 million to help 247 businesses nationwide this year through the Value-Added Producer Grant program - $994,000 for seven projects in Minnesota.

“The funding we are announcing will have far-reaching, positive impacts in rural communities across the country,” Vilsack said. “The investments will help businesses create new products, expand their operations, and support local and regional food systems. The new Farm Bill expands this program to provide even more of these opportunities.”

Since 2009, USDA has awarded 863 Value-Added Producer Grants nationwide totaling $108 million – 24 in Minnesota totaling $4.9 million. Twenty percent of the grants and 16 percent of total funding has been awarded to beginning farmers and ranchers. The 2014 Farm Bill increases mandatory funding for the program from $15 million to $63 million over five years (while also reauthorizing an additional $40 million in discretionary funding).

The grants can be used for a wide range of purposes. They can support local and regional food systems, further the development of the growing bioeconomy, and finance the distribution of local and regional products.

For example, Shepherd’s Way Farms, Inc. in Nerstrand, Minn., has been selected for a $200,000 Value-Added Producer Grant to be used as working capital in support of market expansion activities and increased production of artisan cheeses, whey-fed pork meat, lamb meat, and wool products. What began as a small flock of dairy sheep, Shepherd’s Way Farms now boasts approximately 200 dairy ewes, heritage breed chickens and pigs, and an assortment of whey-fed pigs. Despite a six-year recovery struggle from a fire in 2005 that destroyed more than 500 sheep and lambs and all animal housing, Shepherd’s Way has remained vital to the local food community, participating in a few local farmers markets and events such as the Eat Local Farm Tours. Rural Development funds will help Shepherd’s Way continue their market and product expansion.

Metz’s Hart-Land Creamery LLC in Rushford, Minn. is receiving a $20,688 grant to fund feasibility and business planning activities involving the development of an on-farm retail store to sell Metz’s brand of artisan cheeses and other local foods products. Stone’s Throw Agricultural Cooperative in Minneapolis, has been selected for a $49,950 grant to expand marketing and distribution of beginner and minority farmers.

Value-Added Producer Grants are an element of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which coordinates USDA’s work to support local and regional food systems. Previous Value-Added Producer Grants supporting local and regional projects are mapped on the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food compass.

USDA is awarding Value-Added Producer Grants in 46 states, Puerto Rico and Micronesia. A full list of recipients is available here. Funding for each project is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement.

The announcement of today’s funding was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve the quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

For more information on the Value-Added Producer Grant program or any USDA Rural Development programs, visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/MN and contact your local area office or call 651-602-7800.

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