About $30 million in grant money will be available through USDA's Value-Added Producer Grant Program for the 2015 funding round, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Friday.
The funding is intended to assist farmers and food entrepreneurs to develop new product lines.
"Farmers and ranchers are creative people who, with a little help, can put that creativity to work and improve the bottom line for their operations," Vilsack said. "Value-Added Producer Grants enable them to develop new product lines to grow their businesses."
More information on how to apply is on page 26528 of the May 8 Federal Register. The deadline to submit paper applications is July 7, 2015. Electronic applications submitted through grants.gov are due July 2.
USDA's VAPG grants can be used to develop new product lines from raw agricultural products or additional uses for already developed product lines, the agency said.
Military veterans, socially disadvantaged, and beginning farmers and ranchers; operators of small- and medium-sized family farms and ranches; farmer and rancher cooperatives; and applicants that propose mid-tier value chain projects are given special priority in applying for VAPGs.
Additional priority is given to group applicants who seek funding for projects that "best contribute" to creating or increasing marketing opportunities for these type of operators.
Help for farmers submitting USDA VAPG applications >>
The USDA Value-Added Producer Grant program has awarded 853 grants totaling $104.5 million since 2009. Approximately 19% of the grants and 13% of total funding has been awarded to beginning farmers and ranchers, USDA said.
Congress increased funding for the VAPG program when it passed the 2014 Farm Bill.
Help signing up for USDA VAPG program
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition also Friday released a new, updated version of its Farmers' Guide to Value-Added Producer Grant Funding.
The VAPG guide provides clear information on the program's application requirements, including a step-by-step description of the application and ranking processes.
Individual farms as well as groups of producers and producer-controlled coops and businesses are eligible to apply for either planning grants or working capital grants. For this grant cycle, $10.2 million is available from the Fiscal Year 2015 appropriations bill, with most of the balance coming from direct funding provided by the 2014 Farm Bill.
"Ideally, the notice of funding availability would be released each year in time to give farmers the three winter months to put together and submit their proposals," said Ferd Hoefner, NSAC policy director. "This year's timing, coming at the busiest time of the farming year and with just a 60 day turn-around time, is unfortunate. We nonetheless applaud USDA for keeping up the pressure that was needed to get the rule and funding notice through the White House review process.
"The release during planting season and the short turn-around time makes it doubly important for farmers to use NSAC's Guide as a quick starting point for general reference before starting in on a proposal," he said.