U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Monday that the agency is seeking applications from cooperatives to provide technical assistance to small, socially disadvantaged agricultural producers in rural areas.
“These grants will jump start small business hiring and help producers in areas facing economic challenges get the tools they need to succeed,” Vilsack said. “Small businesses are the engines of job growth and innovation in America.”
Funding will be made available through USDA Rural Development’s Small, Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grant program (SSDPG), said José Otero-García, Rural Development State Director for Puerto Rico. The maximum grant award is $200,000.
The SSDPG and other USDA business and cooperative development programs have had a significant impact on rural communities, the agency noted. In 2012 alone, they helped almost 10,000 rural small business owners or farmers improve their enterprises. Business and cooperative program funding created or saved an estimated 53,000 rural jobs in 2012.
Eligible applicants include cooperatives, groups of cooperatives, and cooperative development centers where a majority of the governing board or board of directors is comprised of individuals who are members of socially disadvantaged groups.
Small, socially disadvantaged producers include farmers, ranchers, loggers, agricultural harvesters, and fishermen that have averaged $250,000 or less in annual gross sales of agricultural products in the last three years. Producers will be able to conduct market research, product and/or service improvement, feasibility studies, training, and implement business plans.
The application deadline for these grants is July 15, 2013 for paper applications and July 10, 2013 for electronic applications. For additional information on how to apply, see the June 12 Federal Register, page 35239, or click here.