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USDA to offer value-added grants

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture ( USDA) will soon be accepting applications for grants to assist agricultural producers seeking to add value to the commodities they produce. Approximately $18 million will be awarded nationwide.

USDA plans to award planning grants of up to $100,000 and working capital grants of up to $300,000 to successful applicants. Applicants are encouraged to propose projects that use existing agricultural products in non-traditional ways or merge agricultural products with technology in creative ways. Businesses of all sizes may apply, but priority will be given to operators of small and medium-sized family farms, those with average, annual gross sales of less than $700,000.

Applicants must provide matching funds equal to the amount of the grant requested. Ten percent of the funding being made available is reserved for beginning farmers or ranchers and socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers. An additional 10 percent is reserved for projects involving local and regional supply networks that link independent producers with businesses and cooperatives that market value-added products.

Paper and electronic applications must be submitted to the Rural Development state office in the state where the project will be located. A list of state offices is available at www.rurdev.usda.gov/recd_map.html. Electronic applications must be submitted through www.Grants.gov.

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