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Value-Added Grants in Jeopardy

April 3, 2008

Des Moines, IA – Congress has been trying to work out the details of a 2008 Farm Bill, and the latest funding framework put forth by Agriculture Committee leaders doesn't bode well for Iowa's farm entrepreneurs. It would freeze funding for Rural Development programs and eliminate funding for the popular Value-Added Producer grant program.

Those suggestions will be unpopular in Iowa, to say the least. Since 2000, Iowa has had more recipients of those grants than any other state. State Center farmer Kelly Biensen, for instance, used federal grant money to start his "Eden Natural Pork," an enterprise that markets Iowa pork directly to restaurants.

"If the government could somehow understand the passion that many of us have out here, the support for this value-added agriculture program would be overwhelming."

Biensen says the Rural Development programs provide jobs in areas of the state where employment opportunities are few and far between. He says his operation is a good example.

"We're not very big or anything, but since that grant, we have hired two employees that we couldn't have before."

Value-Added Producer grants, he adds, help more than just the individual recipients. He's convinced that, without the financial help to start his company, at least some of the pork producers who are a part of the successful venture would probably no longer be in business.

Dick Layman/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - IA