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New round of value-added grants available

Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has another round of funding available for projects that will help farmers, producers and processors add value to their operations. A total of $500,000 in funding was made available through the Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation Program (AGRI), established by the Legislature to advance Minnesota's agricultural and renewable energy industries.

The MDA will distribute the funds through its AGRI Value Added Grant Program that aims to increase sales of Minnesota agricultural products by diversifying markets and increasing market access and food safety.

Specifically, these grants are intended to:

• Initiate or expand livestock product processing.

• Create feasibility, business, marketing and succession plans for existing and new businesses.

• Purchase equipment to initiate, upgrade or modernize value-added businesses.

• Increase on-farm food safety, such as implementation of a food safety plan.

• Increase farmers' processing and aggregating capacity to enter farm-to-school and other markets.

Proposals that have a meat processing, farm-to-school (or other institution) component, or are addressing good agricultural practices (GAP) or similar type of food safety plan, will receive priority, but all value added proposals are encouraged to apply.

Small to medium sized operations will also receive special consideration. Proposals that include business planning, feasibility studies, marketing planning and succession planning are eligible for 50 percent of the total project cost up to a maximum grant award of $30,000.

Equipment purchases or physical improvements are eligible for 25 percent of the total project cost up to a maximum grant award of $70,000 with a completed business plan or food safety plan. A business or food safety plan must outline what equipment and improvements are necessary to fulfill the plan.

Round two applications must be received no later than 4 p.m. on Friday, March 1. Proposals may be delivered by mail, in person, or by e-mail.

If a proposal is e-mailed, the time and date it is received by the program administrator will be considered the received-by date.

Applications are available at www.mda.state. For more information, contact David Weinand, MDA grants administrator, at (651) 201-6646 or