Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced the approval of 184 value-added agricultural product market development grants in 40 states, totaling over $28.7 million. The grants will foster the development of new products and markets for agriculturally based products.Washington, D.C. – January 12, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] “The grants will foster the development of value-added projects to help create the opportunity for economic development and job creation in rural areas,” said Veneman. “The Bush Administration is committed to providing the necessary tools to help rural businesses create jobs and improve the quality of life for their communities.” Authorized as part of the 2002 Farm Bill, the Value-Added Agricultural Product Market Development Grants program provides an opportunity to refine agricultural commodities and products to increase their value in the marketplace. Applications selected for funding range from Planters Cotton Oil Mill, in Arkansas who will receive $497,000 to develop a feasibility analysis and business plan for marketing and manufacturing of an oilseed processing products (neutralized dried soap stock), to Massachusetts Woodlands Cooperative, who has been selected to receive $499,253 to expand markets that focus on forest stewardship, green certified materials and other value-added forest products. In support of President Bush’s 2001 energy plan, 29 applications focusing on bio-mass and renewable energy were selected to receive $4.3 million in grant funds. For example, in Illinois Central Illinois Energy Cooperative will utilize $250,000 to assist with the construction of a 30-million ethanol processing and co-generation facility. Funding of selected applicants will be contingent upon meeting the conditions of the grant agreement. A complete list of the selected grant recipients can be found at the USDA Rural Development web site at the link below. USDA Rural Development’s mission is to deliver programs in a way that will support increasing economic opportunity and improve the quality of life of rural residents. As a venture capital entity, Rural Development provides equity and technical assistance to finance and foster growth in homeownership, business development, and critical community and technology infrastructure.