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California Producers Earn USDA Grants

USDA Rural Development California State Director Janice Waddell recently announced and congratulated 15 recipients of Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program funds. The nearly $2 million in grants awarded will help California cooperatives, farmers, ranchers and other small businesses develop and expand new value-added products.

“The projects highlighted shows both the entrepreneurial spirit of our producers, and USDA’s commitment to helping these groups create new market opportunities for their California-grown products,” said Waddell. “Not only will these grants benefit the individual recipients, but they also serve to help strengthen the overall rural economies in the Golden State.”

VAPG funds can be used to develop new product lines from raw agricultural products or promote additional uses for established products. Applicants must provide matching funds equal to their grant award. Eligible applicants include independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, and agricultural producer groups. Veterans, socially-disadvantaged groups, beginning farmers and ranchers, operators of small- and medium-sized family farms and ranches, and farmer and rancher cooperatives are given special priority.

Grants may be used for working capital and planning activities. Examples include Calrose Co-op, a 42-member cooperative of California Rice Producers based in Chico, who will use a $64,666 planning grant to help study the feasibility of flavored packages of rice designed specifically for use in rice cookers. Riverdog Farm in Guinda, a rural community in Yolo County, will use a $183,946 working capital grant to increase the processing of their pork into bacon, sausage, ham and packaged pork cuts. These products will expand the farm's operation at farmers markets and at its own farm stand.

Top O’ The Morn Farms, a family owned dairy in Tulare, received a $250,000 grant to help expand their farm fresh milk products which are sold in recyclable glass bottles into new markets in Southern California. The dairy originally received a VAPG grant in 2009 to study the feasibility of a home delivery service for their milk, which they launched with help from another VAPG award in 2011. In addition to their home delivery service, Top O’ The Morn Farms also offers their products at several local grocery stores, farmers markets and restaurants. Their expansion has not only helped develop new revenue opportunities for the dairy, but has also helped create jobs in the community.

In addition to California’s 15 awards, USDA announced 311 other VAPG projects across the nation on Friday, Oct. 28.

USDA Rural Development California has a $6.9 billion loan portfolio and 18 offices throughout the state. The agency annually invests $1 billion, on average, in California’s rural communities.