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USDA offering $44m in grants for value-added agri projects

The grants come at a time of low US agri receipts and high mid-stream margins.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will disburse up to $44 million for farming businesses to expand into value-added market opportunities.

The grants are offered from the USDA’s Value Added Producer Grant programme which has awarded $144.7 million in funding for 1,126 value-added projects since 2009.

Previously funded projects include a $75,000 study looking at processing and marketing buffalo meat, and a $50,000 to the Lamar Pecan Company to study the feasibility of marketing US‐grown pecans in China.

After several years of strong profits, US commodity crop farmers are under financial pressure from falling prices and dwindling export opportunities.

Investors suggest producers have also born the brunt of the price drop, despite simultaneously falling input costs for fuel, building materials and energy. “The price I pay as a consumer for products on the shelf hasn’t really gone down, even if the input price for [a] processor’s products have gone down,” Paine & Partners partner Andrew Freeman told Agri Investor last month.

“America’s farmers, ranchers and rural business owners are innovative entrepreneurs and this programme helps them grow economic opportunities […]  by increasing the value of the items they produce,” said Vilsack in a statement. “The Value-Added Producer Grant programme has a great track record of helping producers increase the value of products and expand their markets and customer base.”