RICHMOND—More than $20 million is being distributed by the US Department of Agriculture to help encourage economic growth and job creation in rural Virginia communities.
Eighteen Virginia projects will receive funding through USDA grant and loan programs, including the Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Programs, Rural Cooperative Development Grants, and Community Grants. value-added producers. Projects funded range from the development and construction of new businesses to the expansion of existing businesses and those that create value-added products.
The funding is part of a broader rural development program under the Biden administration’s Build Back Better plan. Through this initiative, the USDA is investing $1.4 billion to help keep resources in rural communities through skills training, business development, and technical assistance.
“These grants help companies grow and expand their businesses,” said Whitney Perkins, assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “For example, a small, woman-owned beef cattle operation in Virginia Beach can increase sales of its local beef; and a small, beginning farmer in Highland County can increase his operational capacity to sell black walnut syrup.
Some of the growers and businesses that have received these grants have been assisted by the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation, and Rural Sustainability, which helps rural agricultural businesses grow their businesses and obtain grants. VA FAIRS has helped 13 Commonwealth farmers secure $2.61 million of USDA’s $20 million value-added grant funding. He has also helped several producers apply to other state and federal programs.
“In total, VA FAIRS has helped more than 20 producers access more than $3.25 million in various state and federal programs,” said Perkins, who is also a staff member at VA FAIRS. “Together, these projects have a realized economic impact of over $11.2 million and have directly saved 17 jobs and added 20 jobs in rural communities. »
The projects receiving the grants covered a wide range of products, including fresh produce, wine, cider, oysters, retail beef and lamb, turkeys and lavender. In addition, Perkins noted, the grants were focused on small producers and family farms, women- and veteran-owned businesses, and new or beginning farmers.
“We’ve seen on full display, with a front row seat, many supply chain issues arise and persist, particularly within our food systems,” Perkins noted. “Each of the VAPG recipients sells directly to consumers, and these growers are helping fill these supply gaps in rural Virginia communities. More than ever, it is important that we invest in these entrepreneurs and recognize their important contributions to our food system and our rural economy.