USDA Value Added Producer Grants For Beginning Farmers: Apply by Nov. 30

USDA will accept project proposals under the the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program for group projects (farm coops, businesses, associations, etc.) in which some but not all of the beneficiaries are beginning farmers. Under the terms of the recently issued Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the VAPG program, USDA had said that VAPG grants under funds specially set-aside for beginning farmer projects had to be 100 percent owned by beginning farmers.  NSAC urged the Department to relax this ruling, pointing out that producer associations and coops would rarely if ever be entirely comprised of beginning farmers.  We pointed out that the intent of Congress in creating the set-aside was to encourage value-added projects not just from individual beginning farmers, but also from farm coops and other groups projects in which a significant number of beginning farmers could participate. We welcome the new flexibility on the part of the Department and commend its Rural Development division for committing to fixing the NOFA language on this point for the 2010 version next year. Applications for this round of VAPG funding -- $18 million is available, enough for approximately 80 project grants -- are due by Monday, November 30.  Awards will be made in early January.

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