Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Support for Small, Socially Disadvantaged Agricultural Produ Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is accepting grant applications to assist small, socially disadvantaged agricultural producers and cooperatives in rural areas to spur job creatio
BigNews.Biz - Apr 27,2012 - Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Support for Small, Socially Disadvantaged Agricultural Producers and Cooperatives to Create Jobs, Boost Local Economies
WASHINGTON, — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is accepting grant applications to assist small, socially disadvantaged agricultural producers and cooperatives in rural areas to spur job creation.
"The funding we are announcing today represents USDA's continuing investment in providing small business owners with the assistance they need to improve their business operations, and serve their communities by creating economic opportunity for residents and training new generations of rural Americans to succeed in business," said Vilsack. "The Obama administration is working to help these small-scale producers add profit and efficiency to their operations so they can grow, thrive and create jobs."
For fiscal year 2012, approximately $3 million in grants are available through USDA Rural Development's Small, Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grant Program (SSDPG), which was authorized in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Farm Bill). It is part of the Department's ongoing effort to expand outreach to rural residents to ensure that all communities have equal access to USDA programs and services. Funding is available to cooperatives or associations of cooperatives where at least 75 percent of the governing board or membership are small, socially disadvantaged producers. Grants can be used for product improvements, business plan development or economic development activities. The maximum grant award per applicant is $175,000.
The grants assist eligible producers like the people of Winston County, Mississippi, who face many of the same problems as other rural communities across the nation: declining population, rising prices, and family farmers in need of capital, business tools, and new markets for their products. In 2010, the Winston County Self-Help Cooperative applied for and received a $200,000 Small, Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grant to continue the work they started with local producers in the community. The co-op works with a consortium of local farmers that pool their resources to receive training in business development, conservation, health, and other topics of concern. The cooperative also has a youth program, which teaches vital skills to the next generation of Winston County farmers.
In southwestern Minnesota, the Hillside Farmers Co-op has some big goals for Latino farmers in the region. With the help of a $200,000 Small, Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grant from USDA in 2010, Hillside Farmers Co-op took another step toward reaching some of those goals. Hillside Farmers Co-op includes Latino immigrants and established farmers in southeastern Minnesota that are committed to sustainable foods and building healthier communities. Immigrant families are matched with established area farmers who rent out their land for gardening and poultry production. The grant will help the co-op conduct a feasibility study, develop a business plan, provide training and help pay for other related expenses in developing a network of Latino-owned businesses in the free-range poultry industry. Many Latino families have strong backgrounds in rural living and agriculture. Hillside Farmers Co-op hopes to tap into that valuable experience to develop small-scale sustainable farms that are competitive in