Value-Added Producer Grant Program.

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
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ACTION ALERT

HELP SHAPE THE VALUE-ADDED PRODUCER GRANT PROGRAM

Comment Deadline June 28, 2010

Family farm advocates have an important opportunity to help shape the implementation of the Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG).  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. VAPG offers both working capital and planning grants that strengthen the profitability and competitiveness of small and medium-sized farmers and ranchers.

USDA has requested comments on a proposed administrative rule that will govern the implementation of this important program.  While the rules are positive overall, NSAC has identified three areas in particular that require your input to ensure that VAPG fulfills its promise.  Please submit a comment by June 28th.  Instructions for submitting a comment are provided below.

Please tell USDA to:

•    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.

•    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.

•    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 benefitting 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.

For more information on VAPG visit this page on our website and while there be sure to sign up for our blog for regular updates on this program and others.

There are two ways to submit a comment:

1.  Submit your comments electronically by going to:

http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/home.html#home

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


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