Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced that USDA has selected 298 recipients in 44 states and Puerto Rico to receive business development assistance through the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program. Merrigan made the announcement in Chicago after keynoting the “Local/Regional Food System Conference” hosted at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
Six Ohio agri-businesses were among the awardees, including Wood County’s Egg Tech Ltd., Pickaway County’s Van Strohm Fiber Processing Mill, Auburn Twin Oaks Winery in Chagrin Falls, The Ohio Soybean Council in Worthington, Mercer Landmark in Celina, and Loudonville’s Tea Hills Gourmet Meat Products.
“USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grants acknowledge the entrepreneurial spirit of Ohio’s farming and small business communities,” said Tony Logan, USDA Ohio Rural Development state director. “This money provides working capital to support emerging markets in areas such as food production and safety, environmental impact and renewable energy. We at Rural Development are proud to play such a positive role in strengthening Ohio’s agronomy.”
As an example, Loudonville’s Tea Hills Gourmet Meat Products will use its $178,062 grant to expand the family’s popular line of gourmet sausages. In addition to meat raised on its own farmland, Tea Hills draws on locally-sourced produce, organic seasonings and quality cheese to make its signature sausage products. The Value-Added Producer Grant will allow Tea Hills to cut its working capital expenses by 50 percent for three years, promoting growth and potentially adding employees.
The Value-Added Producer Grants announced today total more than $40.2 million. Funds may be used for feasibility studies or business plans, working capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based renewable energy projects. Eligible applicants include independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, agricultural producer groups, and majority-controlled producer-based business ventures. Value-added products are created when a producer increases the consumer value of an agricultural commodity in the production or processing stage.