Five Maine small businesses would receive a total of $471,571 in federal Value Added Producer Grants from the USDA. Funding for the program has risen dramatically—from $15 million to $63 million over five years—thanks to Pingree’s successful efforts to have an increase included in the 2014 Farm Bill.
“Value Added Producer Grants are critical investments to help small food producers like the ones we have in Maine take their businesses to the next level. These funds allow them to expand their operations, find new markets, and develop new products,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. “I couldn’t be happier that the increased funding will allow more Maine producers to take this opportunity, creating and saving dozens of jobs in the process. It’s exciting to see the new innovations this diverse set of recipients will create with this investment.”
The 2014 Farm Bill, which sets the nation’s agriculture policy every five years, was signed into law by President Obama earlier this year. Pingree wrote and advocated for numerous provisions that will promote local agriculture, sustainable farming, and help young farmers.
The funding is being provided through USDA Rural Development’s Value-Added Producer Grant program. The program helps agricultural producers increase their income by expanding marketing opportunities, creating new products and developing new uses for existing products.
“The funding we are announcing today will have far-reaching, positive impacts in rural communities across the country,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The investments will help businesses create new products, expand their operations, and support local and regional food systems. The new Farm Bill expands this program to provide even more of these opportunities.”
The projects in Maine are estimated to save 46 jobs while creating an additional 21 new jobs. Below is more information and grant amounts for the Maine recipients from USDA.
Maine VitaminSea, LLC (Buxton) $99,988
Rural Development funds will be used to provide VitaminSea LLC working capital to support a marketing program to increase sales of seaweed based foods, snacks, and health products harvested in Maine. Sales to specialty food and beauty stores, grocery chains, and food service distributers are projected to grow to 1,000 pounds per week. Funds will also be used to procure unique packaging materials and finance increased production labor costs. VitaminSea LLC intends to save three jobs and create three additional jobs as a result of this grant.
Maine Farming Fungi LLC (Sanford) $49,912
Rural Development funds will be used to provide Farming Fungi LLC working capital to market organic mushrooms in unique, compostable packaging for resale in local grocery store chains and food distribution companies. Funds will be used on advertising with printed and social media, website expansion, and product sampling in stores. Additionally, investments in packaging materials, labor and product promotion will work to increase sales to 1,000 pounds per week. Farming Fungi LLC intends to save six jobs and create two additional jobs as a result of this
Maine Apple Acres Farm, Inc. (Hiram) $200,000
Rural Development funds will be used to provide Apple Acres Farms working capital to expand the sales of fresh apples, apple-based products such as donuts and cider, and locally grown foods to over 120 wholesale and 20,000 retail customers. Funds will also be used to employ a sales professional and to optimize the existing website for e-commerce with a projected increase in revenue of over 200%. Apple Acres Farms intends to save fourteen jobs and create five additional jobs as a result of this grant.
Maine Marble Family Farms (Farmington) $49,998
Rural Development funds will be used to provide Marble Family Farms working capital for a market expansion of their pre-cooked and blast frozen pocket meal. The funds will be used toward increasing meal production to 20,000 units by the end of 2014 and expanding the wholesale and retail customer base. Funds will also be used to attend Statewide events as a vendor and to promote the product through targeted marketing and website development. Marble Family Farms intends to save two jobs and create two additional jobs as a result of this grant.
Maine Maine Fresh Sea Farms, LLC (South Bristol) $71,673
Rural Development funds will be used to provide Maine Fresh Sea Farms a planning grant to study the feasibility of delivering fresh aquacultured sea vegetable products to the marketplace using existing agricultural produce and seafood distribution systems. Funds will also be used to identify distribution best practices, conduct nutritional analyses, and to create a business plan. Maine Fresh Sea Farms intends to save 21 jobs and to create 10 additional jobs in the next ten years as a result of this grant.