AGRICULTURE SECRETARY VILSACK ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR SMALL, SOCIALLY DISADVANTAGED AGRICULTURAL PRODUCERS AND COOPERATIVES TO CREATE JOBS AND BOOST LOCAL ECONOMIES
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. Applications for USDA Rural Development’s Small, Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grants are due July 24. Application materials may be obtained at the Rural Development website http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/ or by contacting the nearest USDA Rural Development State Office.
For additional information, see the April 25, 2012, Federal Register, page 24678, or click here http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-04-25/html/2012-9997.htm Contact: Weldon Freeman (202) 690-1384