Competing for VAPG Funds

woman writing in a notebook

The USDA Rural Development Agency offers Value Added Producer Grants (VAPG) to qualified agricultural producers on a competitive basis. The grants support co-ops and farmer-owned businesses who capture and retain added-value for their products, for example, raising livestock and processing the meat, or growing apples and making cider. The purpose of the VAPG is to stimulate producer-owned businesses to create jobs and enhance rural economies.

The program has two parts. Planning grants assist with feasibility studies and business plans. Working capital grants provide funds to help implement well-developed business plans. Competition for working capital grants is particularly stiff: applicants can apply for funding generally in the range of $250,000, but must have strong feasibility studies and business plans, and demonstrate ability to provide 1:1 non-federal matching funds. Good VAPG Working Capital candidates generally have sales of at least $500,000 per year on up to $5 million, with plans to take their business to the next level.

CDS offers grant writing services and the business development expertise clients need to qualify for the grant. The VAPG grant application process includes meeting many criteria, which is why most applicants seek expert assistance long before the USDA’s deadline is announced. The announcement of the deadline usually occurs in the spring, and applicants have 60-90 days to submit for the next funding cycle.

“Most business owners and cooperatives are not experts in grant writing. They need access to funds and our role is to provide that assistance,” said Bob Olson, co-op development specialist. Qualified clients have enjoyed an 80-90% success rate on first-time submissions using CDS services. Olson encourages ag producer businesses to start thinking about the steps to becoming a good candidate for VAPG. For more information about whether your business or co-op would qualify, contact Bob Olson at 651-265-3682 or email bolson@cdsus.coop.