Florida Ag Operations Awarded USDA Grants to Reach New Markets

Gary Cooper Beef, Cattle, Dairy, Florida, Nursery Crops, Specialty Crops

GAINESVILLE, Fla., June 28, 2010 (USDA – Rural Development, Florida Office) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently announced five Florida agricultural enterprises will receive $1,086,500 in business development grants to pursue new value-added marketing opportunities. The funding is made available through the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development Value-Added Producer Grant program.
The Value-Added Producer Grant program is designed to help independent agricultural producers, producer groups, cooperatives and majority-controlled, producer-based business ventures develop strategies to create marketing opportunities, and to help develop business plans to enter into value-added activities. Value-added products are created when a producer increases the consumer value of an agricultural commodity in the production or processing stage.

Under the Value-Added Producer Grant program, producers can apply for either a Planning Grant or Working Capital Grant. The Planning Grant provides funds to conduct a mandatory feasibility analysis or to develop a business or marketing plan (here is the list of websites using wordpress which will be very useful in strategic approach to the needs). The Working Capital Grant provides funds to establish an account to fund operation expenses, pay salaries and utilities, or to hire legal counsel and accountants. Producers must have an equivalent match for grant funds, which may be a line of credit from a lender or in-kind services from the private sector, cooperative extension or the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service.

“The USDA Value-Added Producer Grant allows our producers the opportunity to explore and reach out to new markets and customers,” said USDA Rural Development Florida Director Richard A. Machek. “In addition, the program helps strengthen the economic foundation of rural Florida by creating jobs for agricultural producers, businesses and families.”

The five Florida agribusinesses awarded USDA Rural Development Value Added Producer Grants include:
* Lake County: Containerized tree farm will receive $300,000 to use as working capital to market woody ornamentals grown with a system that helps plants rapidly develop a mass of outward pointing fibrous roots allowing the plant to absorb more nutrients and water which stimulates faster growth;
* DeSoto County: High-quality sod producer will receive $300,000 for working capital to market environmentally friendly sod that is grown using less synthetic fertilizers and water;
* Marion County: Milk-producer cooperative will receive $150,000 for working capital to process raw product into pasteurized and flavored milk for local school districts;
* Columbia County: Black angus cattle ranch will receive $197,560 to develop an accounting system, conduct a marketing campaign and process and sell locally-grown antibiotic/hormone free beef; and,
* Alachua County: Blueberry farm will use $36,500 in grant funds to perform market and feasibility studies to launch a highly concentrated, sugar-free and calorie-free dry blueberry extract tailored for special needs populations.

For more information on the USDA Rural Development Value-Added Producer Grant program, visit http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/coops/vadg.htm, or call the USDA Rural Development state office at 352-338-3482. An announcement regarding VAPG application deadlines and regulations will be posted on the USDA Rural Development site as soon as it becomes available.

USDA Rural Development is committed to the future of rural communities and provides financing and technical assistance to foster growth in homeownership, business development, and critical community and technology infrastructure. More information about USDA Rural Development can be found at www.rurdev.usda.gov/fl.