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WASHINGTON -- Vernita Dore, Deputy Under Secretary of Rural Development, announced Nov. 10 that 258 farm businesses from 47 states, Puerto Rico, and the Western Pacific will receive $34 million in grants from the 2015 round of the Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG) program. The Value Added Producer Grants program awards competitive grants that facilitate the creation and development of value-added, farmer-owned businesses.

"The VAPG program is USDA's premier producer-led rural development program," said Ferd Hoefner, NSAC Policy Director. "With this latest announcement, VAPG builds on its track record of helping farmers and ranchers across the country create jobs and enhance rural economies through value-added businesses."

The VAPG program contributes to business creation in rural areas, while also enhancing food choices for consumers. Individual independent agricultural producers, groups of independent producers, producer-controlled entities, organizations representing agricultural producers, and farmer or rancher cooperatives are eligible. VAPG grants may be used for working capital or to develop business plans and feasibility studies for new ventures.

NSAC campaigned for improvements to the program made in the 2008 Farm Bill, including a consideration of local food enterprises and food supply networks linking farm to table, plus program priorities for assisting small and mid-size family farms as well as beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. The 2014 Farm Bill renewed VAPG, added veterans to the program priorities, and provided $63 million in mandatory (direct) farm bill funding to supplement the annual appropriation the program receives.

The term "value-added" describes a process whereby an agricultural commodity or product has undergone a change in physical state or was produced, marketed, or segregated (i.e., identity-preserved, eco-labeling) in a manner that enhances its value or expands the product's customer base. Examples of value-added projects in this area include:

Indiana

• A $70,750 grant to Fansler Farms General Partnership to determine the feasibility of processing non-GMO and determine optimal equipment, facility, location and processing methods

• A $75,000 grant to Waste No Energy, LLC to use consultants to determine the feasibility of harvesting exhaust from an existing digester motor for expanding operations

• A $250,000 grant to Goat Milk Stuff, LLC to expand caramel sales to the online customer base and fund a marketing campaign

Michigan

• A $19,300 grant to Campbell Milarch, LLC, to develop a business plan, marketing plan and feasibility study for their "truly Michigan" vinfera vine business

• An $11,500 grant to RMG Maple Products, Inc., to conduct a feasibility study on the potential market for USDA certified organic maple syrup

• A $5,015 grant to Leelanau Fruit Company to conduct a feasibility study on a new market expansion of maraschino cherries

• A $250,000 grant to Indian Summer Cooperatives, Inc., to increase production of applesauce cups and expand their marketing

• A $250,000 grant to Gallagher's Vineyard & Winery Corp., to turn 15 acres of grapes into wine and open a tasting room

• A $250,000 grant to Brengman Brothers, LLC, to expand the market by opening a second tasting room in Grand Rapids with food pairing option

• A $50,215 grant to Swallowtail Farm, LLC, to increase production and expand the market for fruit syrups and jams

• A $15,000 grant to Michigan Fiber Industry Coalition Cooperative to increase production and expand the market for yard made within the USA

Ohio

• A $50,535 grant to Light on the Land Services, LLC, to verify the potential market for biochar as a soil amendment

• A $4,381 grant to Milligan's Maple Products, LLC, to implement a new marketing approach that will allow the applicant to grow market share.

• A $49,958 grant to Ohio River Vista Vineyard to implement a marketing plan for a small family-owned startup winery

• A $49,584 grant to Beepothecary to market BEE rescue cream made from honey, propolis and beeswax

• A $44,769 grant to Quarry Hills Orchard, LLC, to implement a new local foods marketing campaign for Ohio grown apples

• A $75,000 grant to Cape Blanco Cranberries to support planning costs associated with the cranberry juice product

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