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By Jimmy Story, Missouri Enterprise Business Program Manager

For more than 33 years, Missouri Enterprise has been helping Missouri Manufacturers Succeed by providing a wide range of specialized services and expertise. Missouri Manufacturers know us for the technical expertise and manufacturing know-how we can bring them on a project basis or in an ongoing partnership.

One way we help manufacturers succeed is by making them aware of opportunities that can help them.  Perhaps surprisingly to some, food producers and processors comprise one of the largest segments of our state’s manufacturers. In addition to helping food producers in the areas of Business Growth, Continuous Improvement, Supplier Development, Sustainability and Workforce Missouri Enterprise actively assists these companies by helping them find State and Federal program that support food producers.

Some of these include financial assistance, support and grant programs.  Here are just a few support opportunities currently available to Missouri food manufacturers.

The Missouri Value-Added “Farm to Table” Grant Program

This program provides grants for the creation and development of rural agricultural businesses that add value to Missouri agricultural products and aid the economies of rural communities.  The Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority (MASBDA) will consider grant applications from Missouri businesses to access resources for accessing and processing locally grown agricultural products for use in institutions within the state.

Grant applications will be considered from small businesses for resources including, but not limited to:

  • Coolers,
  • Freezers,
  • Washing equipment,
  • Bagging equipment,
  • Packing equipment, and
  • Professional services for Good Agricultural Practices/Good Handling Practices (GAP/GHP) and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Analysis (HACCP) plan development.

Proposals will be selected on a competitive basis. Each proposal will be evaluated and rated using the following criteria:

  1. Economic development potential for the agricultural industry,
  2. Credibility and merit,
  3. Probability of near-term commercialization and practical application of project results,
  4. Presence, source and level of matching funds, and
  5. Where the project will have an economic impact 

Applications for “Farm to Table” Grants are now being accepted and must be received no later than 5:00PM October 28, 2016.  The maximum individual grant is $200,000. Applicants are required to provide a 10 percent cash match toward the resource being funded.

Click here (http://agriculture.mo.gov/abd/financial/farmtotable.php) to learn more, or contact MASBDA at 573-751-2129.

The Agricultural Stewardship Assurance Program (ASAP)

This is a verification program offered by the Missouri Department of Agriculture that champions Missouri farms that are responsible stewards of the land.  It’s meant to acknowledge and reward those who proactively protect the environment, employ sound management practices and use science-based technology to produce safe food, fuel and fiber for consumers.

The goal of the program is to aid producers in their marketing efforts and provide them with the tools they need to be successful in an ever-evolving industry. The Missouri Department of Agriculture and Missouri farmers and ranchers recognize that consumers want to know more about where their food comes from and how it’s produced. Consumers are agriculture’s most important stakeholder, and consumer confidence in Missouri’s agricultural products and the source of those products is vital. ASAP will better communicate, recognize and promote the good stewardship and sustainability that Missouri producers continue to practice and improve upon.

ASAP Certification has domestic and global benefits.  Producers who receive official verification of their farm’s sustainability receive benefits such as:

  • Media kit including farm signage and a news release template
  • Physical and digital stamp of your farm's marketing materials
  • Recognition on ASAP website
  • Early access to educational programs
  • Gain access to national and international markets

Producers can become verified in one or more of the following categories: grassland, livestock, forestry, cropland, farmstead, special crop and energy. With that verification, producers will gain access to domestic and international markets that they may not have been able to access previously. International markets continue to increase the emphasis placed on sustainable farming. Additionally, producers will obtain third party verification of their efforts.

If your application for certification is approved, the Missouri Department of Agriculture will provide your farm with ASAP signage and other promotional materials.

Producers can learn more about the program at www.ASAP.farm

The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)

REAP is a Loan and Grant program offered by USDA Rural Development focused on Renewal Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvement.  The program provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.

Agricultural producers with at least 50% of gross income coming from agricultural operations, and small business in eligible rural areas may apply.  Available funding includes Loan Guarantees on loans up to 75% of total eligible project costs, and Grants for up to 25% of total eligible project costs.  (combined grant and loan guarantee funding up to 75% of total eligible project).

For grant requests of $20,000 and less, the application deadlines are October 31, 2016 and March 31, 2017. For grant requests greater than $20,000 the application deadline is March 31, 2017. Guaranteed loan applications will be reviewed on a monthly basis.

REAP Funds may be used for renewable energy systems such as:

  • Biomass (for example biodiesel and ethanol, anaerobic digesters and solid fuels)
  • Geothermal for electric generation or direct use
  • Hydropower below 30 megawatts
  • Hydrogen
  • Small and large wind generation
  • Small and large solar generation
  • Ocean (tidal, current, thermal) generation

REAP Funds may also be used for the purchase, installation and construction of energy efficiency improvements, such as:

  • High efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC)
  • Insulation
  • Lighting
  • Cooling or refrigeration units
  • Doors and windows
  • Electric, solar or gravity pumps for sprinkler pivots
  • Switching from a diesel to electric irrigation motor
  • Replacement of energy-inefficient equipment

Learn more about REAP at:  http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/rural-energy-america-program-renewable-energy-systems-energy-efficiency.