The Agribusiness Development Services Office of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) is encouraging eligible agribusiness producers to apply for competitive grants through a USDA Value-Added Producer Grants program.

The application deadline is May 16, 2007.

USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBS) recently announced the availability of approximately $19.3 million in competitive matching grant funds to help independent agricultural producers enter into value-added activities.

The grant program is designed to encourage independent agricultural producers to add value to their agricultural products, thereby increasing farm income. Adding value to basic agricultural commodities is one way for Virginia farmers to maintain economic viability in these days of rising producer costs.

Eligible applicants are independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, agricultural producer groups, and majority-controlled producer-based business ventures.

Producers may apply for grants for planning activities or for working capital expenses, but not for both.

The maximum amount for a planning grant is $100,000 and the maximum amount for a working capital grant is $300,000. Applicants must provide matching funds.

Producers or groups interested in value-added, specialty agribusiness in Virginia may contact Charles Green at VDACS by telephone, 1-804-786-3502, or by e-mail at charles.green@vdacs.virginia.gov.

VDACS’ Office of Agribusiness Development Services works with prospective and existing agribusinesses to help them with location or expansion plans. Services range from providing marketing assistance to promoting regional cooperation to foster business growth and development.

Applications and additional instructions also are available through the USDA on-line at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/coops/vadg.htm.