In conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent announcement of at least $76 million in available grant support via the Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) Program, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has released a newly updated version of its Farmers’ Guide to Applying for the Value Added Producer Grant Program (The Guide). For farmers and ranchers, NSAC’s newly updated guide includes everything interested producers need to know about VAPG to determine if the program is a good fit for their operation, including program changes made due to the COVID-19 pandemic and helpful tips to improve a producer’s chances of obtaining funding from this highly competitive program.
The Guide provides clear information on the program’s application requirements, including a step-by-step description of the application and ranking processes, and is available for free on the NSAC website.
In addition, on March 16, 2021 at 2:00 PM Eastern, USDA will host a webinar for prospective applicants. The webinar can be joined at this link.
“For farmers and ranchers interested in taking their operation to the next level with value-added products or marketing, VAPG is an excellent resource,” said Wes King, Senior Policy Specialist at NSAC. “However, the application process can be complicated, and there are key program changes this year to reflect the COVID-19 pandemic that producers should be aware of. Our Farmers Guide lays out all the program details, eligibility guidelines, and other details to aid potential applicants. When a farm operation shifts to value-added production, or grows their value-added operation, it can have immensely positive effects both on the farmer’s bottom line, as well as on their larger community.”
The deadline to submit paper applications in-person or via mail is May 4, 2021; the deadline to submit electronic applications is April 29, 2021. Electronic applications must be submitted through grants.gov. To ensure a strong and diverse applicant pool, NSAC encourages all interested farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food entrepreneurs to apply – particularly those from historically underserved communities. In order to address historical inequities, the program reserves 10% of the funding for grants to beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, including Black, Indigenous, and farmers of color (BIPOC).
VAPG funds can be used for working capital, feasibility studies, business plans, and for marketing efforts to establish viable value-added businesses. Up to $75,000 is available for planning grants and up to $250,000 is available for working-capital grants. Individual and groups of producers, as well as farmer coops and producer-controlled businesses, are eligible to apply for these grants.
NSAC helped create VAPG as part of the 2000 Agricultural Risk Protection Act. For the last twenty years, the Coalition has been one of the leading advocates for VAPG and other programs that support local food systems and rural development. In the 2018 Farm Bill, NSAC led advocacy for the creation of the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP), which moved VAPG and the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program under a single umbrella (LAMP), and provided permanent mandatory funding for each program.
The Coalition has also led appropriations advocacy to secure additional discretionary funds for VAPG. The Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020 passed in December 2020 contains both badly needed emergency COVID-19 relief aid and regular fiscal year (FY) 2021 appropriations, including approximately $47 million in additional funding for VAPG in addition to its mandatory farm bill funding.
Source: National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition