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Bonus Dollars Up for Grabs for Colorado Farmers and Ranchers

March 17, 2008

Denver, CO - Millions of dollars are up for grabs for farmers and ranchers who have new ideas for a raw product, be it biodiesel or cottage cheese. They just need to ask for the money. The deadline for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "Value-Added Producers" grant program is March 31.

Mike Heavrin with the Center for Rural Affairs encourages producers to put their dream projects down on paper and apply.

"We definitely want to get ranchers and farmers some funding to get their ideas off the ground. That's what makes the world go 'round."

"Homegrown" biodiesel, ready-to-eat dinners, cheese and even wind-power -- all can be produced in Colorado with a little help from a federal grant. Heavrin says there are several types of grants. Planning grants are available for helping agricultural producers find new ways to make more money from their land and raw crops; working capital grants can be used to pay for just about anything to get a new idea off the ground in the first year, from inventory and processing costs, to marketing costs, salaries and transportation.

The USDA also is offering grants to help improve and expand local farmers' markets. The application deadline for that grant program is March 24. Heavrin says these programs are meant to give a boost to Colorado's rural towns as well as individual producers.

"Rural America is losing population. Opportunities are reduced as businesses get larger and move to larger cities because of the labor pool and so forth."

In previous years, Colorado producers have received well over $1 million to invest in their projects. More information and applications are available at www.rurdev.usda.

Eric Mack/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - CO