While small food producers in some states want to eliminate government involvement, such as licensing and inspection, in the food they sell, others are seeking the government’s help to expand their ventures, add new products and increase the availability of local food.


Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave 298 dairies, creameries, produce growers, wineries, distilleries, cideries, ranchers and other independent local food producers in 44 states a total of $40.2 million in business development assistance through the federal government’s competitive Value-Added Producer Grant program.

“These projects will provide financial returns and help create jobs for agricultural producers, businesses and families across the country,” USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleeen Merrigan said in announcing the awards.

“This funding will promote small business expansion and entrepreneurship opportunities by providing local businesses with access capital, technical assistance and new markets for products and services.”

In agriculture, the term “value-added” means changing a basic commodity to enhance its value and expand its market, such as making cider from apples. 

Funds from the Value-Added Producer Grant may be used for feasibility studies or business plans, working capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based renewable energy projects. 

Some of those receiving the grants:

— Living Water Farms in Illinois is a three-year-old family company that produces hydroponic greens to supply fresh produce year-round to specialty markets in the Midwest. Located in Strawn, two hours south of Chicago’s Loop, three generations of the Kilgus family are part of a group called Stewards of the Land which was organized to market produce from small farms. 

– Agriberry, near Mechanicsville, VA, the dream of Anne and Chuck Geyer whose vision is to establish a consumer-supported summer berry farm and become an agricultural training facility for first-time workers. Agriberry has expanded to more than 35 acres of red raspberries and other fruit. They hire a number of local workers each growing season.

– Green Mountain Organic Creamery in North Ferrisburgh, VT markets certified organic, bottled pasteurized milk, butter, ice cream and other dairy products. Owners Cheryl and John DeVos founded the dairy to provide local, organic dairy products to the community and throughout the Northeast. Green Mountain was recognized as the Vermont Dairy of the Year in 2011.

Go here for the full list of grant awards.

The grants are part of USDA’s Rural Development programs, which include a portfolio of more than $155 billion in loans and loan guarantees to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers.

  • John

    Hey, Bill and Dan,
    I’m confused. There appears to be a disconnect between USDA’s farm/business support programs and FDA’s food safety push; or it is just me? Shouldn’t these be “AND” press releases. Can you call the USDA Secretary’s and Undersecretary’s office’s and find out why we don’t see “AND GAP/GHP/HACCP” in the many USDA department funding programs and the award announcements? Such as:
    USDA’s Value-added producer grants AND they include GAP, GMP and HACCP requirements
    USDA’s AMS Farmers market development grants AND they include GAP and GMP requirements
    USDA’s Farm-to-school programs AND they include GAP, GMP and HACCP requirements
    USDA’s School garden program and they include GAP and GMP teachings
    USDA’s Food & Nutrition Service support (school lunch and snack programs) AND they include GAP, GMP and HACCP requirements
    USDA’s New farmer grants AND they include GAP and GHP requirements
    USDA’s Farm and business grants and loans AND they include GAP, GMP and HACCP requirements
    USDA’s Export support program AND they include GAP, GMP and HACCP requirements
    Shouldn’t these new best practices (GAPs, GMPs, HACCP) be automatically sewn into the DNA of every USDA farm/processor support program (regardless of the size of the operation) so that there is rapid evolution of the safety of American agriculture? Heck, we are going to hold the Chinese (and every importing country) to new, higher standards of food safety — but what about US farmers?
    … just ask’n because I’m confused.

  • Steve

    It would be great to see Congress, FDA and other gov’t food safety overseers actually put their money where their mouth is when it comes to farmer training.
    Although we have yet to see what FDA has done with the Food Safety Modernization Act, rules and regs wise — there is a key funding provision put in there by Senator Stabenow that provides scale-appropriate food safety training for farmers. The funding vehicle set up to do this already seems to be removed, however.
    The problem with John’s “confused” post is that many of the so-called “best practices” (GAPs, GMPs, HACCP) are designed for bigger operations and are loaded with expensive compliances that (by industry design) can put small producers out of business. You don’t need to have stainless steel packing stations, for instance, when much less-expensive, fully cleanable linoleum coverings work just fine…
    There is tremendous demand for workable food safety parameters from small scale farmers — and it’s clear the public supports this. At this point it’s the grassroots farming organizations who serve these farmers that are bearing the brunt of these costs. It’s time for our citizen’s dollars to get re-channeled from their normal trajectory into the coffers of the big food industry — to the entities that actually help small producers grow…