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September 20, 2007   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
September 20, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 20 -- The Satsuma Steering Committee of the Alabama Farmers Federation's Horticulture Division will be among 162 recipients in 40 states and Puerto Rico to receive grants through the Value-Added Producer Grant Program. The money will be used to conduct a feasibility study and develop a business plan for a Satsuma processing cooperative.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns this week announced $22.7 million will be awarded through the Value-Added Producer Grant program, with $31,500 of that going to Alabama's Satsuma Steering Committee.

"We are excited about the awarding of this grant and look forward to expanding marketing opportunities for Satsuma producers with existing customers, and encourage new customers by providing processed products, as well as fresh-market," said Federation Horticulture Director Brian Hardin.

"These grants support farm families in rural America by helping them market their commodities and increase their financial returns," Johanns said. "I'm also pleased that some of these funds will help develop alternative fuels from renewable energy sources as part of President Bush's comprehensive national energy policy."

Approximately one-third of the grants will go to recipients who requested $50,000 or less in federal assistance. For example, in Chilton, Wis., Quality Dairy Goat Producers Cooperative of Wisconsin was selected to receive an award of $37,500 to market quality goat milk to high-end cheese companies.

Value-Added Producer Grants may be used for planning activities or to provide working capital to market value-added agricultural products and farm-based renewable energy projects. A value-added product is created when a producer takes an agricultural commodity, such as milk or vegetables, and processes or prepares it in a way that increases its value to consumers. Rural Developmen t has committed more than $158 million to value-added agricultural investments since 2001.

A complete list of grant recipients is available at USDA's web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov.

"The goal of the project is to determine the feasibility and financial attractiveness of a processing cooperative for Satsuma Mandarin oranges and to develop a bankable business plan for the cooperative," Hardin said. "Auburn University's Department of Horticulture will conduct the study under the oversight of a steering committee made up of producers."

Partners who pledged matching funds for the project are Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries, Alabama Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, Alfa Services & Alabama Farmers Federation, Auburn University's Department of Horticulture, Baldwin County Farmers Federation, Mobile County Farmers Federation, Mobile County Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, and the State of Alabama Farmers Market Authority.

Around the turn of the last century, Satsuma production was big business in Mobile County, but killing freezes virtually wiped out the industry. In recent years, the development of more winter-hardy varieties of Satsumas as well as crop protection systems has allowed the crop to get a new foothold not only in Mobile County but as far north as Chilton County.

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