The intersection of whiskey and government is something normally limited to the TTB, which oversees regulation of the liquor industry here in the United States. Yet there other agencies that also have a hand in supporting the development of whiskey, among other spirits. This has most recently played out through the USDA in the form of grants geared towards helping agricultural producers and small rural businesses develop new products.
The USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant program, according to the USDA, offers grants in various sizes out of a total funding pool of $45 million to qualified businesses, most in rural parts of the country. Notably, the program funds farm distilleries. Here are some recent grants awarded to distillers across the country:
- Whiskey Acres – $250,000 – grant given to “establish or expand markets for the farm-based business.”
- 22 Eagle Ranch – $213,350 – grant given to “conduct a feasibility to determine the feasibility of establishing a distillery that processes farm raised grains to whiskey or vodka.”
- Marr Grange – $240,000 – grant given to “launch an on-farm distillery to process specialty grains, including rye, to create distilled craft whiskey. Funds will be used to market and establish the new brand.”
- Thousand Islands Winery – $250,000 – grant given to “expand sales and promotion of rye whiskey and bourbon whiskey products.”
- Barkley’s Mill on Southern Cross Farm – $56,000 – grant given to “evaluate the potential for a craft distillery to make whiskey from heirloom corn.”
- Iron Fish Distillery – $250,000 – grant given to “produce and distill Estate Blend and 100 percent Estate Blend Spirits.”
The one best known to readers of The Whiskey Wash is Whiskey Acres, who we profiled a few months back during an on-site visit. A recent article in a local newspaper explains a little more about what this distillery’s specific grant entails.
“Value-Added Producer Grants are one of USDA’s most sought-after funding sources for veteran and beginning farmers, and rural-based businesses,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a prepared statement. “These grants provide a much-needed source of financing to help producers develop new product lines and increase their income, and keep that income in their communities.”
Economic development initiatives like this one are working – the unemployment rate in rural America is at an eight-year low and incomes rose 3.4 percent last year. Small business entrepreneurship, which Value-Added Producer Grants support, is a major reason why rural America is a making a comeback.”