Grants aimed at assisting grower-shippers in adding value to what they grow will soon be available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Secretary Tom Vilsack announced during a visit to California.


The nationwide total of the grants will be about $18 million, the USDA said in a news release.


“These grants strengthen rural economies and create jobs by helping farmers and ranchers add value to their agricultural products by using them for planning activities such as feasibility studies, marketing and business plans, or for working capital,” Vilsack said in the release.


Priority will be given to operators of small and medium size family farms with annual gross incomes of less than $700,000, the release said.


In addition, 10% of the funds will be reserved for beginning or socially disadvantaged growers and ranchers while another 10% will be reserved for projects involving local and regional supply networks.


What may be a roadblock to some applicants is that a grower or rancher applying for a grant must provide matching funds equal to the amount requested.


Planning grants of up to $100,000 and working capital grants to $300,000 will go to successful applicants, the release said, and growers and ranchers are encouraged to propose projects that use existing agricultural products in non-traditional ways or merge agricultural products with technology in creative ways.


Official notice of the grants will be published in the Federal Register on or before Sept. 4, the release said, and applications will be accepted after that date.


Applications, paper or electronic, must be submitted to a Department of Agriculture Rural Development office in the state where the project will be located, the release said. A list of the state offices is available at www.rurdev.usda.gov/recd_map.html. Electronic applications must be submitted to www.Grants.gov, the release said.