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Natural Foods Merchandiser

USDA grants available to small farmers

Farmers who need help marketing their innovative agricultural products or making use of renewable energy can now apply for the 2009 Value-Added Producer Grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The deadline to apply is November 30.

"The approximately $18 million in value-added grants announced by USDA this past year are strengthening rural economies and creating jobs," said agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack in a press release. "I encourage farmers and businesses to take advantage of this opportunity to add value to their agricultural products by funding planning activities such as feasibility studies, marketing and business plans, or for working capital."

In 2004 and 2005, the USDA awarded the Michigan Turkey Producers Cooperative in Wyoming, Mich., Value-Added planning and marketing grants, totaling $205,000. As a result of the funding, the cooperative hired 66 employees and opened a processing plant for new product lines, according to the USDA.

This year, the USDA is encouraging applicants to propose projects that “use existing agricultural products in non-traditional ways or merge agricultural products with technology in creative ways,” according to a USDA release. Priority will be given to small- and medium-sized family farms with annual gross sales of less than $700,000. Awards will be up to $100,000 for planning projects and up to $300,000 for capital projects.

For more information on how to apply, visit Value-Added Producer Grants.

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