Seeking your input/feedback
(June 24, 2010)

Help Shape the Value-Added Producer Grant Program

Program Description:
This program offers competitive grants to farmers and ranchers developing new farm and food-related business enterprises that boost farm income, create jobs, and increase rural economic opportunity. The Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG) offers both working capital and planning grants that strengthen the profitability and competitiveness of small and medium sized farmers and ranchers.

The USDA is requesting comments on a proposed administrative rule that will govern the implementation of the VAPG program. There are three areas described below that require input to ensure that VAPG fulfills its promise. Please submit your comments by June 28th, 2010.  There are two ways to submit a comment:

1.  Submit your comments electronically by going to:

Type or paste this identification number into the general search box: RBS-10-BUSINESS-0018-0001.  Scroll down and at the listing for "Value Added Producer Grant, Proposed Rule," choose "submit comment."  Then follow the instructions on the comment page.

2.  Mail your comments to:

Branch Chief
Regulations and Paperwork Management Branch
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Stop 0742
1400 Independence Ave. SW
Washington DC  20250

Three topics of interest:

1.  Keep business and enterprise planning of VAPG projects farmer-centered.  The proposed rule includes conflicting provisions on this matter.  Helpfully, it says farmers may count their time spent on development of business and marketing plans as an in-kind contribution for purposes of matching funds.  Yet the rule also includes conflict of interest rules and several program definitions that seem to prohibit active participation by the producer in project development and planning. This undermines the fundamental principle of the VAPG program: That farmers and ranchers should be empowered through these grants to explore creative new businesses that will increase farm income and create rural wealth.  USDA should ensure that the final rule is totally consistent on this point - farmers and ranchers should directly participate in the development of VAPG projects and be allowed to count their time as a contribution toward the program's matching requirements.

2.   Ensure that the legislative priority for projects that targeted to small and mid-sized family farms and ranches and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers set by the 2008 Farm Bill are clearly expressed in the final rule and in the scoring/evaluation process.  Congress has spoken - these are mandated VAPG priorities.  Yet, the proposed rule from USDA would award only 15 ranking points out of a potential 110 ranking points for projects targeted to this group.  USDA should ensure the final rule awards 25 total points for the priority group, and should also add clear language to the effect that proposals which target small, mid-sized and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers should take priority over projects that are not targeted in that fashion if proposals are otherwise equally ranked.

3.  Allow producer groups or entities made up of more than 25% beginning farmers and ranchers to apply for the funds reserved by the farm bill specifically for projects benefiting beginning farmers and ranchers.  The proposed rule dictates that all members of the farmer group or coop must be beginning farmers or ranchers, a very unlikely situation in the real world.  The requirement will preclude mentoring opportunities with more experienced farmers.  USDA should ensure the final rule includes a reasonable standard to measure significant benefit to beginning farmers.

Share your ideas for the next 2010 Farm Bill

Congress will begin negotiating the 2012 Farm Bill in the next year and is interested in gathering feedback. The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) is working on developing their Farm Bill policy platform, identifying programs and provisions important to the future of organic agriculture. OFRF has created an online survey to gather feedback from organic or transitioning farmers, famers interested in transitioning to organic production, and organic consumers.  The survey can be found at Survey deadline July 9, 2010.

If you have any questions, contact Tracy Lerman, OFRF Policy Organizer: [log in to unmask]. P: (831) 426-6606 x 108 If you would like to access a searchable archive of the all the previous Mich-Organic listserv postings copy this URL and paste in your browser address field