USDA announced Tuesday a $25 million investment to help 247 U.S. businesses expand operations to turn commodities into value-added products.
Secretary Vilsack made the announcement during a visit to Miles Smith Farm in Loudon, N.H., a recipient of one of the USDA Rural Development's Value-Added Producer Grants.
The program helps agricultural producers grow their businesses by turning raw commodities into value-added products, expanding marketing opportunities and developing new uses for existing products.
"The funding we are announcing today will have far-reaching, positive impacts in rural communities across the country," Vilsack said. "The investments will help businesses create new products, expand their operations, and support local and regional food systems. The new Farm Bill expands this program to provide even more of these opportunities."
Since 2009, USDA has awarded 863 Value-Added Producer Grants totaling $108 million. Twenty percent of the grants and 16% of total funding has been awarded to beginning farmers and ranchers. The 2014 Farm Bill increases mandatory funding for the program from $15 million to $63 million over five years, while also reauthorizing an additional $40 million in discretionary funding.
The grants can be used to support local and regional food systems, further the development of the growing bioeconomy, or finance the distribution of local and regional products, among other things.
Miles Smith Farm, for example, has been selected for a $127,732 Value-Added Producer Grant to market and produce burgers made from 55% grass-fed beef and 45% organically raised pork. Mixing the two meats creates an ideal fat and flavor level that grass-fed ground beef does not have alone. Carole Soule of Miles Smith Farm calls the mix "the burger that squeals with flavor."
Value-Added Producer Grants are an element of USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which coordinates USDA's work to support local and regional food systems. Previous Value-Added Producer Grants supporting local and regional projects are mapped on the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food compass.
View a full list of Value-Added Producer Grant recipients.