By Sarah Waring, USDA Rural Development
In USDA Rural Development’s Business Programs, we have an emphasis on supporting agricultural producers and small rural businesses. Go to rd.usda.gov, click on Programs & Services tab and then choose Business Programs to see all the options. Here is a run-down of USDA Rural Development producer-specific grant and loan programs on the horizon or currently open.
If you are a meat producer, please explore these:
Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program: due to open again in the spring, but important to look early and often at grant requirements and business/feasibility plans.
Eligible uses: building new or expanding processing facilities, modernizing equipment, ensuring compliance with packaging and labeling requirements, upholding occupational safety requirements, offsetting costs associated with becoming USDA inspected facility, supporting workforce training and recruitment and more.
Eligible entities: Sole proprietor businesses or other entities that engage or want to engage in meat and poultry processing. Learn more by taking the Self-Screening Eligibility Guide and staying in touch with USDA Rural Develpment for a spring announcement.
The Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program (MPILP) provides grant funding to intermediary lenders who finance – or plan to finance – the start-up, expansion, or operation of slaughter, or other processing of meat and poultry. The objective of the MPILP is to strengthen the financing capacity for independent meat processors, and to create a more resilient, diverse, and secure U.S. food supply chain. This will probably open again in the fall of 2023.
Eligible uses: purchasing and developing land, construction of new facility, expansion of existing, refinancing debt, purchasing cooperative stock, paying for feasibility studies, handling waste management, improving leaseholds, and more.
Eligible entities: Private nonprofit corporations, public agencies, Tribes, and cooperatives that finance – or plan to finance – the start-up, expansion, or operation of meat and poultry processing are eligible to apply. Learn more by taking the Self-Screening Eligibility Guide, and checking the website for updates on funding availability.
If you are an agricultural producer looking for other grant options:
Value Added Producer Grants: The Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program helps agricultural producers enter value-added activities to generate new products, create and expand marketing opportunities, and increase producer income. This opens in the spring of 2023. You may receive priority if you are beginning or socially-disadvantaged farmer or rancher, small or medium-sized farm, a cooperative or proposing a mid-tier value chain project.
Eligible Uses: planning activities or working capital expenses related to producing and marketing a value-added ag product.
Rural Energy for America Grants: OPEN NOW! The program provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements. Agricultural producers may also apply for new energy efficient equipment and new system loans for agricultural production and processing.
Eligible uses: new renewable energy systems, such as solar, geothermal, biomass or other. Also, high efficiency HVAC, insulation, lighting, cooling, doors and windows and equipment replacement for high efficiency equipment.
Eligible entities: Agricultural producers with at least 50 percent of their gross income coming from agricultural operations, and small businesses in eligible rural areas.
Lending programs: these are both loan guarantee programs:
Business and Industry (B&I): This program offers loan guarantees to lenders for their loans to rural businesses. Open Year Round – as an ag producer you would work with YOUR lender to access this program.
- Business development, growth, modernization, conversion, or repair
- Buy and develop land, buildings, and associated infrastructure for commercial or industrial use
- Buy and install machinery, equipment, supplies, and inventory
- Refinance debt to create cash flow and create jobs
- Acquire businesses or industries when the loan will maintain operations, and create or save jobs
Food Supply Chain Guarantee program:
This program guarantees loans of up to $40 million for qualified lenders to finance food systems projects, specifically for the start-up or expansion of activities in the middle of the food supply chain. Learn more, and work with your lender by going to the Frequently Asked Questions site.
Don’t forget that Ag Marketing Services (another branch of USDA) has a lot of great grant and loan programs for local food and marketing. Here’s cheat sheet: https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/FoodSupplyChainFactSheet.pdf