VAPG Beginning Farmer Clarification Un-clarified: NSAC was told by USDA this week that in order to qualify for the 10 percent of funds reserved for beginning farmers in the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program, 100 percent of the farmers in a farm coop or business must be beginning farmers, an unlikely occurence. This is a change from what we reported previously in the Weekly Update, based on earlier assurances from USDA.
Now we are told the problem will be fixed in the VAPG rule-making process now underway, but that will be too late for this round of grants. However, applications by groups of farmers that include some beginning farmers will be considered in the regular pool of grants and the proposals will receive points for including new farmers, a priority clearly expressed in the Farm Bill language. Barring a substantial number of proposals by individual beginning farmers, it is likely that for this year at least the reserve funds will not be used and will need to be merged into the regular pool.