CORVALLIS - Federal grants aimed at Western agricultural producers who are interested in pursuing innovative sustainable agricultural marketing projects are available from now until March 15. The goal of these grants is to encourage sustainable growers to try new marketing practices that will increase farm and ranch incomes and contribute to thriving rural communities.

U.S. Department of Agriculture partners, the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program and the Agricultural Marketing Service are sponsors of the grants and are calling for these proposals.

"The timing for this could not be better. At the turn of this new century, the marketplace is changing with lightning speed," said Larry Thompson, an Oregon grower and chair of Western SARE's governing Administrative Council.

"Direct marketing, international opportunities and challenges, niche products, local food markets and other alternative business practices are top of mind," Thompson said. "Producers need to be bold and claim a healthy margin of every food dollar spent by American consumers."

Individuals can apply for grants of up to $10,000; producer groups (three or more farm/ranch operations working cooperatively) can apply for up to $20,000. A total pool of $120,000 is available in the region for the one or two-year grants. The starting date for marketing projects may vary but all work must be completed by Dec. 31, 2002. All funding will be awarded competitively.

Grant reviewers will be looking for proposals that explore or demonstrate ways to increase sustainable farm and ranch incomes by expanding or refining more traditional market channels, or by attempting new techniques, products or markets, according to soil scientist Phil Rasmussen, regional coordinator of Western SARE. The sponsoring partners hope to see a variety of approaches from producers of diverse agricultural products.

Applicants can gather background information, ideas and potential strategies for projects at the Agricultural Marketing Service's Farmer Direct Marketing internet site. Also, an on-line bulletin that highlights SARE-funded and other work in this area, called "Reap New Profits: Marketing Strategies for Farmers and Ranchers" is available.

To request application materials, contact the Western SARE headquarters office at Utah State University at (435) 797-2257 or To request by mail, write to Western SARE, Utah State University, 4865 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT, 84322-4865. The call for proposals is also be available on the Western SARE Web site at

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Kristin Kelleher, 530-752-5987