PORTLAND - Farmers and ranchers throughout Oregon can compete for federal Value Added Producer Grants by preparing an application for submission to the U.S. Department of Agriculture before July 30.

Eligible applicants are independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, agricultural producer groups, and majority-controlled producer-based business ventures. Priority will be given to planning grants for bio-energy projects. Applications may also be submitted for support of projects which will develop a business plan, a marketing plan or a feasibility study for ventures, or, for projects which will allow producers to better compete in domestic and/or international markets.

The Oregon State University Food Innovation Center in Portland has developed an online source of help for applicants called the "Grant Application Tool Kit," which features guidelines, proposal templates, samples of previously funded proposals, and tips for success. The site is designed to help producers complete the forms and create the narratives that applications require. It can be seen and used at http://fic.oregonstate.edu

The USDA has allocated approximately $13.2 million to support the grant program this year. Up to $500,000 can be sought to support planning activities and working capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based renewable energy.

Although the maximum amount that can be awarded is $500,000, most grants will likely be for smaller sums.

The Food Innovation Center operates as a partnership between Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Agriculture. It is equipped to help agricultural producers throughout Oregon improve their operations, add value to their products and market their goods to local, domestic and overseas markets.

Staff members are available to review applications through July 20 and will offer advice about ways to improve proposals if called on to do so through e-mail queries sent to fic@oregonstate.edu or through calls made to 503-872-6680.

For more information about the 2004 VAPG program, contact Aaron Johnson, Jerry Gardner, Laura Barton or Carol Coren at the Food Innovation Center, at 503-872-6680, or visit http://fic.oregonstate.edu.

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Aaron Johnson, 503-872-6680