Farmers, Food Producers Flock to Drake Workshop on USDA Food Producer Grants
Joshua Borchert, a recent Drake Law School graduate and USDA official, confers with two women who attended the workshop.
More than 60 Iowa farmers and food producers from 30 communities attended a recent workshop sponsored by Drake Law School's Agricultural Law Center on Value Added Producer Grants.
The Sept. 17 workshop at Drake's Neal and Bea Smith Law Center featured two speakers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development office, including a recent Drake Law School graduate.
Joshua Borchert, business and community programs specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, received his Drake law degree in May and recently passed the Iowa Bar Exam.
"While at Drake Law School, I was an intern with the Rural Development office for one summer and two academic years," Borchert said. "And now that I've graduated, I'm working as a state project development officer."
Shannon Chase of USDA, right, and farmer Peggy Fogle discuss agriculture grants at the workshop
Borchert was joined at the workshop by Shannon Chase, U.S. Department of Agriculture business and cooperative specialist.
They presented information on applying for the grants, which may be used for planning activities and for working capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based renewable energy.
Eligible applicants are independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, agricultural producer groups and majority-controlled producer-based business ventures.
The Department of Agriculture will distribute $18 million nationally under the program and it is estimated that 80 applications will be funded. Drake hosted this workshop to help Iowans prepare and submit grant applications, which are due on Monday, Nov. 30.
Peggy Fogle, a Warren County farmer who is growing aronia berries, said she was glad she attended the conference. "It was very informative," she added.
"The great turnout for the workshop shows the strong interest Iowa food producers have in developing businesses to connect with consumers," said Neil Hamilton, director of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake. The new value added grants program reserves a portion of funding for local and regional food projects and for socially disadvantaged farmers.
"Our goal," Hamilton said, :is to increase the number of grant applicants submitted by Iowans and we are very thankful for the great support from USDA staff for this work."