The North Carolina Value-Added Cost Share (NCVACS) program, administered by N.C. MarketReady, is now accepting applications for the 2011 Equipment cost share funding cycle.

This program is funded by the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission to support the development of North Carolina value-added agricultural operations.

A value-added agricultural product is a raw, agricultural commodity that has been changed in some manner so that it no longer can be returned to its original state. This change results in increased market value, allowing the producer to receive a higher price for these value-added products compared to the original commodity. Chopped lettuce, fruit jams and stone-ground cornmeal are a few examples.

“The NCVACS guidelines broaden the definition of value-added beyond the traditional scope,” said Brittany Whitmire, program coordinator for NCVACS. “It also includes non-standard production methods (such as organic), physical product segregation (keeping genetically modified (GM) corn separate from non-GM corn), generating farm-based renewable energy and some locally produced food products.”

Examples of projects previously funded include a refrigerated van to transport fresh meat, packaging equipment for sweet potato crackers and a chocolate-coating machine for North Carolina pecans.

Reduces equipment costs

The NCVACS program works hand-in-hand with the USDA Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) by reducing the costs of equipment purchases that are not funded by the USDA grant. The 2011 cost share cycle allows value-added producers and processors to apply for equipment cost share funding. Applicants can seek to purchase new or used equipment with cost share funding. Equipment cost share awards will vary from 25 to 50 percent of the total cost of the equipment, up to a maximum of $50,000.

“There are very few places where farmers can find financial assistance to purchase the specialized equipment they need to add or enhance a value-added enterprise,” said Blake Brown, Hugh C. Kiger Professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and member of the N.C. MarketReady team.

Jennifer Chapman, previous Equipment Cost Share recipient, is co-owner of Millchap Purveyors and Polka Dot Bake Shop in Charlotte, N.C., where they produce a baked sweet potato cracker. She explains that until this new equipment was installed, production was a “very manual process” and quite time consuming. It prevented the business from achieving the level of efficiency required to meet the increasing demand for the crackers. The NCVACS award and equipment have “sent us into the next atmosphere,” says Chapman.

Applications for NCVACS 2011 Equipment Cost Share are now available online at http://plantsforhumanhealth.ncsu.edu/extension/cost-share. Applications are due by Aug. 31, 2011. Guidelines and a list of frequently asked questions can be found on the website. Award recipients will be notified by Oct. 1, 2011.

NCVACS is coordinated by N.C. MarketReady, the Cooperative Extension outreach of the North Carolina State University Plants for Human Health Institute, located at the North Carolina Research Campus.

Funded by the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, the cost share program was launched in 2009 and has provided over $696,000 in direct cost share assistance to value-added producers and processors throughout North Carolina.

Learn more at http://plantsforhumanhealth.ncsu.edu.