USDA Undersecretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager spent a couple of days in North Carolina, first awarding $1.3 million in Business Assistance Agricultural Grants to assist agricultural producers and cooperatives at the Chapel Hill Creamery in Chapel Hill. Ten agricultural businesses across the state were awarded grants, according to Tonsager:
“We have a program where we provide some cost share for either helping to do the planning on feasibility on a business project or giving them some working capital on a business project, and so the people getting the grants have to match it, and they have to come up with a plan. We have to know that they’re capable of achieving their plan and making a project work. And so we awarded 10 of these grants in North Carolina for a total of $1.3 million, and they’re all just wonderful little companies. It’s just such a kick to see these work, and these ventures get off the ground and create cheese, wine products, there’s an eclectic list of products that they’re making out of what we grow.”
Tonsager goes on to explain that it’s a competitive process to be awarded these grants:
“This is a competitive project, and it’s a national competitive process, and so they had to put together applications that score really well, create some jobs, make economic sense, so it’s just a very tough process to get through, but they were successful. And we have every reason to believe that they’ll be successful in their business.”
Other grants were awarded during Tonsager’s visit to North Carolina, for electric cooperatives:
“Its call the Rural Development Loan and Grants, and we work with rural electric cooperatives across the country. You know, there’s close to 1000 rural electric cooperatives across the United States, and those cooperatives generally have lots of loans with the federal government to help build their transmission and power systems. And years ago, congress set aside funds generated each to fund economic development programs through these rural electric cooperatives. And we announced two of them fourteen nationally, with two different rural electric cooperatives that are going to take these funds and do a couple of projects.”
Part of Tonsager’s stay in North Carolina included traveling the state seeing other projects that have been funded with USDA grants:
“North Carolina does a fabulous job, the people in this state work with together wit the local economic development corporations and they work closely with our agency here, and I think they’ve done very well for the people of North Carolina putting together all kinds of economic ventures. And they’re driving me around the state today and I’m seeing several projects that we’ve financed in the past, we have several broad band communication projects going. So, I think it’s an exciting time for North Carolina and I hope that things keep moving.”
Dallas Tonsager, USDA Undersecretary for Rural Development.
USDA Announces Business Assistance Grants to Assist Agricultural Producers and Cooperative throughout North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC, Jan 30, 2012 — Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager today announced that 10 small businesses in North Carolina have been selected to receive business development assistance through the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program. Tonsager made the announcement while visiting Chapel Hill Creamery, one of the recipients.
“In his State of the Union address last week the President was clear that we need to do more to create jobs and help economic growth. Under his leadership the economy is growing again. These VAPG funds will improve financial returns and help create jobs for agricultural producers, businesses and families across North Carolina.” Tonsager said. “This funding will promote business expansion and entrepreneurship opportunities by helping local businesses access capital, technical assistance and new markets for their products and services."
For example, Chapel Hill Creamery, LLC (CHC), an independent producer, processes cheese on the farm for sale by area farmers' markets, and to restaurants and retail stores. The operation was founded in 2001 by Portia McKnight and Florence Hawley who purchased land near Chapel Hill, constructed a 2,400 square foot milking bam and processing facility, and began milking cows and processing cheese. Since then, the business has realized steady growth.
In Faison, Cottle Strawberry Nursery has developed a method to transform the muscadine grape into a healthy value-added smoothie to be marketed in three varieties to health conscience consumers. Cottle Farm has been selected to receive a Value-added producer grant to be used as working capital to research, create, and implement a complete three year marketing strategy for this product.
Bobcat Farms is an independent producer that raises and processes genetically superior Black Angus beef in Central North Carolina. USDA Rural Development has approved a value-added producer grant to be used as working capital. The funds will be used to grow direct sales to customers through their new marketing plan and to develop new opportunities in food service and retail sales channels.
The Value-Added Producer Grants announced today in North Carolina total more than $1.33 million. Funds may be used for feasibility studies or business plans, working capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based renewable energy projects. Eligible applicants include independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, agricultural producer groups, and majority-controlled producer-based business ventures. Value-added products are created when a producer increases the consumer value of an agricultural commodity in the production or processing stage.
A list of recipients receiving grants is shown below. Funding of individual recipients is contingent upon their meeting the conditions of the grant agreement.
• Sunburst Trout Company, LLC; Canton; $283,884
• Chapel Hill Creamery, LLC; Chapel Hill $180,000
• Nooherooka Natural, LLC; Snow Hill $130,000
• Honey Mountain Farm LLC – Chuck Moore; Mt. Ulla $120,000
• Bobcat Farms, LLC; Clinton $140,000
• Cottle Strawberry Nursery; Faison $300,000
• Sleepy Goat Cheese LLC; Pelham $22,500
• Smoky Mountain Native Plant Association, Inc.; Robbinsville $20,000
• Yamco LLC; Snow Hill $100,000
• Sullivan Estate Vineyard & Winery, L.L.C.; Hudson $37,148
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $155 billion in affordable loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development’s web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov.