By Beth Epley,
Executive Director of Eastern Plains Economic Development Corporation
Not only is Agriculture the number one industry in Montana, it is both a way of life and an identity, especially in eastern Montana. It is undeniable that the ag industry has changed extensively in the recent decades with new technologies coming out all the time.
Innovation and diversification are essential to the long-term success of our communities and Eastern Plains Economic Development Corporation (EPEDC) is committed to supporting producers in establishing longevity and stability in their operations. For this reason, EPEDC wants to assist producers with their application to the USDA Value Added Producer Grant Program.
The Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of new products. The goals of this program are to generate new products, create and expand marketing opportunities, and increase producer income. Essentially, it provides funding to help producers take their raw commodity and change it into a product that they can then sell at a higher rate.
The grant provides a 1-to-1 match for eligible projects, meaning that a project that has a total cost of $50,000, the grant could pay for $25,000. Grant and matching funds can be used for planning activities or for working capital expenses related to producing and marketing a value-added agricultural product. Examples of planning activities include conducting feasibility studies and developing business plans for processing and marketing the proposed value-added product. For Planning Projects, the maximum grant award is $75,000 and for Working Capital Projects, the maximum grant award is $250,000.
Recent examples of Montana value added projects have included packaging and marketing lentils into a soup mix to be sold at local stores and expanding markets; raising USDA-certified beef; utilizing manure from livestock to convert into gas to heat farm operations; and raw fruit made into bottled wine. This grant is looking to assist producer’s as they seek creative ways to increase the value of their raw commodity. For more information and assistance with this application please contact Eastern Plains Economic Development Corporation at 406-853-6471 or firstname.lastname@example.org.