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PHHI Extension Partnership Lands $425,000 in Grants to Help N.C. Agribusinesses

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension component of N.C. State University’s Plants for Human Health Institute (PHHI), in partnership with the university’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, has secured more than $400,000 in funding through two major grant programs to assist the state’s growers and agricultural operations in 2013. The team was awarded grants from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission (TTFC) and the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development program (USDA), respectively.

The N.C. Value-Added Cost Share Program (NCVACS), coordinated by Brittany Whitmire (at left), provides equipment cost shares of up to $75,000 to start or grow value-added agriculture operations.

The N.C. Value-Added Cost Share Program (NCVACS) received $250,000 from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, most of which will be distributed as cost share funding to N.C. farmers and agricultural businesses via a competitive application process. The NCVACS program, administered in cooperation by the PHHI Extension team and the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at N.C. State, supports the development of value-added agricultural operations, an emerging sector of N.C. agriculture.

NCVACS offers cost share assistance to help developing value-added agricultural businesses purchase specialized equipment to establish or grow an operation. The 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. Awards will neither exceed 50 percent of the project nor $75,000.

“The NCVACS program helps North Carolina agricultural operations grow and adapt to meet the dynamic needs of their clients,” said Brittany Whitmire, program coordinator. “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.”

NCVACS is currently accepting applications for 2013 cost share awards. The application deadline is August 1, 2013. Visit the NCVACS section for more details and to apply or review the 2013 NCVACS Program Overview Summary Sheet (PDF).

NCVCS has garnered nearly $2 million in funding since 2008, and has presented cost share awards to more than 50 agricultural producers and processors.

With support from the USDA-RCDG program, the PHHI Extension team assisted the Sandhills Farm to Table Cooperative, a group of over 2,000 producers based in Southern Pines, N.C., with market research and securing grant funding.

The partnership also pulled in $175,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Cooperative Development Grant program (USDA-RCDG), which supports the team’s work with producer groups and cooperatives to help evaluate and grow new business ventures. With the USDA funding, partners are able to offer a more comprehensive set of services, including strategic planning, budget and business plan development, technology integration, feasibility assessments and more.

“The USDA-RCDG grant helps us to better position producers for success by providing direct technical assistance and resources. Our program partners with agencies across the state to provide comprehensive program delivery aimed at cooperative development and value-added agriculture,” said Jonathan Baros, leader of the PHHI Extension group and fresh produce economist.

The group has assisted more than three dozen organizations and created or saved over 650 jobs in North Carolina via funding from the USDA-RCDG program. Visit the Cooperative Development section to learn more or review the Program Summary Sheet (PDF).

Dr. Blake Brown, Hugh C. Kiger professor of economics in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at N.C. State, is the principal investigator on both grants. In collaboration with the TTFC and USDA, Brown conceived the idea for the NCVACS program in 2008 and has been instrumental in the effort to secure funding for both the NCVACS and RCDG programs during each of the subsequent five years.

Writer: Justin Moore