If you have an idea that can turn a farm-raised commodity into something more valuable at the farmer level, the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC) may be willing to help out with some seed capital. The organization is now assisting producer groups in applying for USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBS) value-added agriculture grants.

$13.2 million in competitive grant funds is available for fiscal year 2004 to help independent agricultural producers enter into value-added activities. The grant will fund one of the following two activities:

(1) Developing feasibility studies or business plans (including marketing plans or other planning activities) needed to establish a viable value-added marketing opportunity for an agricultural product; or

(2) Acquiring working capital to operate a value-added business venture or an alliance that will allow the producers to better compete in domestic and international markets.

Value-added products are defined as follows:
(1) A change in the physical state or form of the product (such as milling wheat into flour or making soybeans into consumer products);
(2) The production of a product in a manner that enhances its value, as demonstrated through a business plan (such as organically produced products);
(3) The physical segregation of an agricultural commodity or product in a manner that results in the enhancement of the value of that commodity or product (such as an identity preserved marketing system).

"Value-added" also includes using any agricultural product or commodity to produce renewable energy on a farm or ranch. Applications must be completed and submitted to the appropriate State USDA Rural Development office as soon as possible, but no later than 4 p.m. on July 30, 2004. For more information, visit: http://www.agmrc.org/business/valueaddedgrant.html.