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N.C. Value-Added Cost Share program nears $1.5 million in grants

There was concern that the 2012 beneficiaries of the North Carolina Value-Added Cost Share program would be the last, since initial funding sunset at the end of the year. But the program, which has doled out almost $1.5 million in grants to a variety of agricultural producers since 2009, has found new life and is accepting applicants for the 2013 awards.

NCVACS was originally funded by North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission in 2009 and has provided agricultural producers or processors with up to $50,000 each (the new cap this year is $75,000) to purchase new or used specialized equipment to start or grow a value-added operation.

“The NCVACS program helps North Carolina agricultural operations grow and adapt to meet the dynamic needs of their clients,” said Program Coordinator Brittany Whitmire. “Whether it’s helping grape growers expand a winery or dairy farmers start an artisan cheese operation, the program gives these folks a better chance to succeed in today’s volatile markets.”

Since its inception, NCVACS has presented more than $1 million in equipment cost-share awards to more than 50 agricultural producers and processors. The program has also provided tens of thousands of dollars in cost-share funding to help farmers offset the costs associated with applying for U.S. Department of Agriculture Value-Added Producer Grants, such as those associated with grant writers and feasibility study consultants. Eight recipients of the NCVACS-VAPG assistance received $1.2 million in VAPG funding from the USDA in 2012.

In addition to the equipment cost-share program, NCVACS offers assistance to producer groups and cooperatives to help evaluate and grow new business ventures with funding from the USDA Rural Cooperative Development Program. Assistance may be provided to NC-based producer groups for the following: feasibility studies, strategic planning, budget and business planning, organizational development and training, ethics training, technology integration, branding, marketing and pricing strategies.

NCVACS, administered by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension in the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences at North Carolina State University, is now accepting applications for the 2013 round of grants.

Potential applicants for 2013 must be:

• Groups of North Carolina producers (including associations, cooperatives, partnerships and LLCs); North Carolina processors (including corporations, partnerships and LLCs); and individual NC producers (including individuals and single-family businesses).

• Producing and/or processing a North Carolina-based value-added agricultural product.

• Registered and operating in North Carolina.

Producer groups and processors will receive priority for funding in the 2013 cycle.

Applications and guidelines are available online at Applications are due by Aug. 1. Applicants will be scheduled for an interview and/or site visit prior to announcement of the 2013 awards.

Award recipients will be notified by Sept. 15 and will have until Dec. 1 to request reimbursement for approved equipment purchases. Funding may be used to purchase either new or used equipment; award amounts will vary based upon the strength of the application and availability of funds.