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Thursday, April 1, 2021 - 6:30am
Jams and jellies at a farmers market. Photo credit: Flickr user shreveportbossier

On March 5, 2021, USDA Rural Development announced the availability of at least $76 million in total funding for VAPG projects. The application window to apply is open now and online applications are accepted until April 29, 2020 through grants.gov, and paper applications must be postmarked by May 4, 2021. We encourage all readers to help get the word out to qualified individuals and groups.

“Value-added” foods and goods are made from raw agricultural products (e.g., vegetables, grains, or dairy) that are minimally processed and then transformed into products like cheese, sauces, and breads. Specially labeled or marketed goods (e.g. “organic” or “locally grown”) can also be considered value-added as the label claim makes their products more appealing (valuable) to consumers. Value-added products bring in higher prices than raw products alone, which helps farmers and ranchers improve their bottom lines and grow their businesses – which in turn increases hiring and spending in their local communities! Making the jump to value-added production can be time and money intensive, which is why many producers have found success with using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program to kickstart new or expand existing value-added operations.

In an effort to help farmers regain business lost during the pandemic, Congress provided $35 million in additional VAPG funding – with a reduced cost share match! – to supplement the $41 million already available for USDA Rural Development through mandatory farm bill funding and annual FY 2021 appropriations. Unfortunately the changes to the cost share requirements have caused confusion. To start, the VAPG grant cycle will be open to all applicants with a 10% cost share requirement. Once that initial $35 million provided as part of coronavirus relief  is awarded, any unfunded VAPG application with a score of 50 or higher will be given the opportunity to amend their budget to compete for the remaining $41 million in funding that will have the normal, farm bill set, 50% cost share requirement. You can learn more about the changes made to the program in USDA’s Amended Notice

Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG)

Administered by the Rural Business-Cooperative Service of the USDA, VAPG provides grant funding to independent producers, including farmer and rancher groups and collectives, to develop or expand value-added producer-owned businesses. There are two types of grants awarded through VAPG:

  1. Planning projects provide grant funds of up to $75,000 in economic planning activities such as the development of business and marketing plans and feasibility studies needed to establish viable marketing opportunities for value-added products
  2. Working capital projects are directly related to the processing and/or marketing of value-added products with a maximum award amount of $250,000. In general, applications with requests of $50,000 or more must be supported by an independent feasibility study and business plan. 

Who is eligible?

Viable entities that are eligible to apply include: 

  • Independent, individual agricultural producers
  • Groups of agricultural producers
  • Majority-controlled producer-based business ventures
  • Farmer or rancher cooperatives

Read more about eligibility criteria in the VAPG section of our Grassroots Guide

How do I apply?

More information can be found on USDA’s VAPG grant page, where you will find toolkit guides for both grant projects, required documentation, and steps on preliminary actions your operation should take prior to submitting an application. Get in touch with your state office’s Business Program Specialist to walk through your project and see if it is eligible for grant funding.

When is the deadline?

The FY2021 application window is currently open now through April 24, 2021 for online applications and May 4, 2021 for paper applications.

  • Paper applications: All materials for paper applications must be submitted and/or postmarked by May 4, 2021 to be considered for funding this cycle. 
  • Electronic applications: All materials must be submitted via http://www.grants.gov and be received before Midnight EST on April 29, 2021
  • You may also opt to submit your application via email or in-person over to your local field office– in-person submissions must be done before COB at 4:30pm local time on May 4, 2021
  • Contact your State Rural Development Coordinator with any questions.
VAPG Basics

VAPG is a subprogram of the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) that provides competitive grants to individual independent agricultural producers, groups of independent producers, producer-controlled entities, organizations representing agricultural producers, and farmer or rancher cooperatives to create or expand value-added producer-owned businesses. Priority is given to projects that increase opportunities for small and mid-sized family farms, and/or for beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

For more information on VAPG and program eligibility, click here or visit our Farmers’ Guide to Applying for the Value Added Producer Grant Program. USDA has also created a “toolkit” for applicants, which includes an application checklist, templates, required grant forms, and instructions (this can be found under the “To Apply” tab).

NSAC’s Legacy of Advocacy

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) helped to create VAPG as part of the 2000 Agricultural Risk Protection Act. For the last twenty plus years, NSAC has been one of the leading advocates for VAPG and other programs that support local food systems and rural development. In the 2002 Farm Bill, NSAC successfully advocated to strengthen VAPG and expand the program to include support for organic products and sustainable livestock niche markets.

In the 2008 Farm Bill negotiations, NSAC won the addition of local food enterprises and food supply networks linking farm to table as eligible activities for VAPG support. We also worked with Congress to secure program priorities for assisting small and mid-size family farms and for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. In the 2014 Farm Bill, NSAC worked with Congress to ensure that program priorities were being met when USDA selects successful proposals. We also won the addition of returning veteran farmers as a new priority category.

The 2018 Farm Bill reauthorized VAPG through LAMP, which guarantees VAPG permanent mandatory funding at $17.5 million per year for the next five years – a major victory for NSAC and our allies in the local/regional food community.

In addition to our farm bill work, NSAC has also led appropriations advocacy to secure additional, discretionary funds for VAPG. The FY 2019 omnibus appropriations bill included $15 million for VAPG, the FY 2020 minibus appropriations bill included $12 million in additional funding for the program, and the FY 2021 appropriations bill again provided $12 million in discretionary funding.

The post $76 MILLION AVAILABLE FOR VALUE-ADDED AND LOCAL FOOD PROJECTS appeared first on National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Thursday, April 1, 2021 - 6:00am

Our Farm Ops project is continuing to find ways to support veterans interested in agriculture amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Recently the project expanded its offering of virtual workshops to “Veteran Learning Cohorts.”

These cohorts bring together a group of veterans interested in agriculture to progress through an educational workshop together. Military veterans currently enrolled or eligible for enrollment into a New York or New Jersey VA facility are welcome to register; proof of residency and veteran status may be requested.

The upcoming workshops will be a combination of self-paced learning and cohort discussion sessions in May and June. These discussion sessions provide opportunities to collaborate with peers and enhance your learning experience. As you engage with your cohort members, you will be exposed to new careers, opinions, experiences, and ideas. Because you may have similar interests, goals, and/or experiences as some of your peers, being part of a cohort makes it easier to further network and build relationships.

Registration is now open and closes on April 26, 2021. Click on the workshop name to register. Please review the dates and commit to attending the cohort discussion sessions.

Indoor Specialty Mushroom Cultivation 

May 19, June 2, and June 16, at 7:00 p.m.

Starting Seeds with the Three Sisters 

May 10, May 24, and June 7, at 7:00 p.m.

 

Getting Started with Pastured Pigs 

May 14, May 28, and June 11, at 7:00 p.m.

After registration closes, you will receive an email that will provide you with access to workshop materials and Zoom links for the cohort discussion sessions.

We recommend that you read the Zoom Participant’s Guide and view the Navigating in Teachable video once you have access to the materials. On May 6th we will hold a technical support session to answer any questions on how to navigate the workshop materials and other questions you may have. Watch for an email invite to this the day prior.

The post Farm Ops Opens Next Round of Veteran Learning Cohort Workshops appeared first on Cornell Small Farms.

Thursday, April 1, 2021 - 12:00am
Vultures play an important role in the ecosystem cleaning up animal carcasses from the landscape. However, although primarily scavengers, some black vultures cause problems for cattle operators in southern Indiana, harassing and even preying on young calves and other livestock.
Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - 2:53pm

The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on both livestock producers and processors, neither of whom could keep up with the demand for local meat. As a result, the Cornell Small Farms Program and Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Livestock Program Work Team (PWT) offered a series of webinars to address some of the most common questions we were hearing from farmers and others.

The Livestock PWT is a network of CCE educators and Cornell Animal Science faculty working collaboratively to support the success of the livestock industry in NYS. This event series is part of a larger partnership between the Cornell Small Farms Program and CCE livestock educators to support livestock producers in the state by developing collaborative resources like the  on livestock management, and the .

Also, the Cornell Small Farms Program contributed a paper on the livestock industry as part of a series of nine papers on the  by experts from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Cornell University.

Recordings of the meat processing webinar series are available below.

Starting a Red Meat Slaughterhouse in NYS

Recorded on December 9, 2020, this webinar was targeted to anyone considering opening a slaughterhouse in NY, and covered the essential elements of this decision, as well as an in-depth example of one farmer who did it successfully.

The webinar featured Marty Broccoli of CCE Oneida County, who provides technical assistance to help new slaughterhouses get started in NYS, and Keith Schrader, a farmer who opened a USDA slaughterhouse, Schrader Farms, in Romulus, NY.

Watch Now

Creative Slaughterhouse Workarounds

Recorded on January 6, 2021, this webinar was aimed at livestock farmers feeling panicked by their inability to secure dates with their regular meat processors, with the intention of helping them regain a sense of control.

The speakers included  Heather Sandford, founding farmer and butcher at The Piggery, and Shannon Hayes, owner/operator of Sap Bush Hollow Farm and Cafe. They covered topics including alternate processing solutions — like getting animals slaughtered by one facility and cut/wrapped by another — finding opportunity in the midst of the chaos, and what it looks like to have Plans B & C for when your livestock processing Plan A doesn’t work out.

Watch Now

Meat Cutting in a Commercial Kitchen

Recorded on March 31, 2021, this webinar focused on 20-C licenses and selling cuts of meat from your farm.

Based on interest from attendees of the “Creative Slaughterhouse Workarounds” webinar, the webinar focused on the idea of getting animals killed by a USDA facility and then bringing the carcass back to a 20-C for further processing into retail cuts or value-added products. Heather Sandford, founding farmer and butcher at The Piggery, and Cory Skier, Supervisor in the Food Safety and Inspection Division at the NYS Dept. of Ag and Markets, covered the farmer and regulatory perspectives of what’s involved in processing your animals under a state-issued 20-C license.

Watch Now

The post Meat Processing Webinars Help Answer Livestock Farmers’ Questions appeared first on Cornell Small Farms.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - 2:45pm

WASHINGTON, March 31, 2021 — Statement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack regarding the release of the American Jobs Plan today by President Biden and the White House.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - 2:00pm

WASHINGTON, Mar. 31, 2021 — In January 2021, President Biden released the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness. The plan is driven by science, data, and public health to improve the effectiveness of our nation’s fight against COVID-19 and to restore trust, accountability and a sense of common purpose in our response to the pandemic.

The National Strategy provides a roadmap to guide America out of the worst public health crisis in a century. It is organized around seven goals:

Tuesday, March 30, 2021 - 10:56am

Looking for NRCS conservation program data? Whether you need program financial information or number of conservation contracts, civil rights data or which practices are applied on how many acres – this and much more is available in the Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act (RCA) Data Viewer.

Monday, March 29, 2021 - 4:30pm

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2021 — Oscar Gonzales was appointed today by President Biden to serve as Assistant Secretary for Administration at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Monday, March 29, 2021 - 12:52pm

A variety of wildlife species—from birds to rodents and rabbits—often visit airport environments leading to safety concerns for both wildlife and airline passengers. Collisions between wildlife and aircraft have increased in the past 30 years because of an increase in both hazardous wildlife species populations and aircraft movements. To help reduce the risk of these potentially dangerous interactions, USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services (WS) biologists provide airport operators across the Nation with advice and recommendations on how to keep runways and flight paths clear of wildlife.

Monday, March 29, 2021 - 12:00pm

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2021 — Today, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended the eviction moratorium to affected multifamily housing residents through June 30, 2021. This halt in residential evictions allows the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to extend relief to the hundreds-of-thousands of Americans who rely on USDA-supported multifamily housing communities.

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