USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday announced distribution of $7 million in university research awards focused on small and midsized producers; $8.8 million in technical assistance for small, socially-disadvantaged producers; and a marketing certification program for small grass-fed beef producers as part of the second major USDA package released in 2014 to support small farms.
The first package included efforts to increase access to capital, provide better risk management tools, expand marketing opportunities, and offer food safety training and educational resources specific to America's small and midsize producers.
$7 million in grants
The $7 million in grant awards to 10 universities will develop programs to assist small and medium-sized farmers grow their operations, enhance their production and become economically viable, USDA said.
These awards, made by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Small and Medium-Sized Farms program, focus on developing models to assist small farmers in their decision making with respect to management strategies, new technologies, sustainability, competitiveness and viability.
The awards also prioritize strategies enhancing access to markets, developing local and regional food systems, assessing the impact of economic changes to new and beginning farmers, and conducting outreach activities which can inform relevant public policy to enhance small farmers' well-being.
A full list of university small farmer grant awardees and their projects is available on the NIFA website.
$8.8 million in funding for technical assistance
The Small, Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grant program will make $3 million available to provide technical assistance to small, socially-disadvantaged agricultural producers through eligible cooperatives and cooperative development centers.
Awardees will be able to conduct market research, product and/or service improvement, feasibility studies, training, and implement business plans. Applications are being accepted through June 30, 2014. More information about how to apply is on the Rural Development website.
The Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program will make up to $5.8 million available to Rural Cooperative Development Centers, which in turn, provide technical assistance to individuals and entities improving the economic condition of rural areas by supporting start-up, expansion or operational improvement of rural cooperatives and other business entities.
Cooperatives have often been the mechanism used by small and midsized producers to work together to access new markets or market value added products. Information about how to apply is on the Rural Development website.
USDA Certification for Small and Very Small Producers of grass-fed beef is administered by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service. This new verification program is tailored to meet the needs of small-scale livestock producers and the growing grass-fed beef industry.
The program allows small and very small-scale producers to certify that their animals meet the requirements of the grass-fed marketing claim standard, helping them differentiate themselves and communicate value to their customers.
As part of USDA-wide efforts to create more opportunities for small-scale livestock producers, AMS is targeting producers that market 49 cattle or fewer each year by designing a less costly application process for these producers to use the USDA Certified Grass-Fed claim.
Producers who are certified under the new program will receive certificates that allow them to market cattle to slaughter facilities as USDA certified grass-fed, increasing their market value and creating new economic opportunities throughout the supply chain.