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November 5, 2007

Gov. Blagojevich announces $536,000 in AgriFIRST funds available
Grant program assists producers in development of new value-added agriculture businesses; application deadline December 11

SPRINGFIELD – Applications are now being accepted for the AgriFIRST program, which assists producers in the development of value-added agricultural ventures, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced today.  More than $536,000 in grants will be available through the program, which is administered through the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
“The AgriFIRST program gives producers an incentive to expand and develop new agricultural products that will not only improve their bottom line, but also help boost the local economy,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
The Fiscal Year 2008 budget includes $536,000 in AgriFIRST incentives to promote “value-added” agricultural ventures, or projects that turn raw commodities into marketable products and enable farmers to earn a larger share of the consumer dollar.  The program helps defray the start-up costs of qualified projects.
Individuals can apply for three types of grants:
    • Technical assistance grants cover up to 75 percent of the cost of developing a “value-added” project.  These funds help individuals access the technical expertise they need in order to advance a project.  The maximum allowable grant is $25,000. 
    • AgriFIRST also provides up to 50 percent of the cost for feasibility studies, competitive assessments or consulting and productivity services.  Examples of projects eligible under this option include feasibility studies, the development of business and/or marketing plans or market research as it relates to the development of a new value-added product.  There is a $300,000 project limit for projects in this category.
    • The final option provides up to 10 percent of construction costs or capital expenditures.  Eligible projects include purchasing land, buildings or equipment.
Producers can apply for all three types of funding, but must submit separate applications.
Applications are due to the Department of Agriculture by Tuesday, Dec. 11 at 5 p.m.
“Through programs like Illinois AgriFIRST we are helping to support new agriculture ventures.  While Illinois is known for growing corn and soybeans, producers are getting more creative every day and finding new ways to supplement their income and ensure the sustainability of agriculture in the state,” Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke said.
Since the program’s inception in 2001, the Department of Agriculture has provided more than $3.7 million in funding to support more than 90 projects ranging from the development of Illinois-produced, organic soy ingredients to assessing the feasibility of ethanol production facilities and assisting the development of the Illinois wine industry.
Individuals interested in applying for the AgriFIRST program can obtain an application by contacting the Illinois Department of Agriculture at 217-782-2172, or forms can be downloaded from the Department’s Web site at www.agr.state.il.us.
The AgriFIRST grant program cannot be used to meet provisions of the Livestock Management Facilities Act, research and development or travel.
Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history.  Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesn’t work, the Governor has divided the state into 10 regions – each with a regional team that is empowered and expected to rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges.  Opportunity Returns is about tangible, specific actions to make each region more accessible, more marketable, more entrepreneurial and more attractive to businesses.  It is about upgrading the skills of the local workforce, increasing the access to capital, opening new markets, improving infrastructure, and creating and retaining jobs.  Opportunity Returns is about successfully partnering with companies and communities, both large and small, to help all of Illinois reach its economic potential.


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