U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today announced federal support for Berglund Farms, who will bring the corn they grow in Illinois to their Okemos facility, Working Bugs, LLC to produce two bio-based chemical products, and Uncle John's Cider Mill in St. Johns, who will become the first American manufacturer to utilize aluminum can packaging. The grants are awarded by the United States Department of Agriculture Value-Added Producer Grant initiative to help farmers and growers develop marketing strategies for agricultural commodities. Rural development funds are used for business plans, working capital for marketing value-added products, and for farm-based renewable energy projects.
Chairwoman Stabenow said, "When we grow things and make things here in Michigan, we create jobs here in Michigan. Michigan agriculture is strong and growing, and our farmers continue to produce the safest, most abundant and widest variety of fruits and vegetables. Our agriculture sector brings in more than $71 billion a year and supports one out of every four jobs in the state. From food processing and manufacturing to farming and marketing, Michigan's agriculture industry is diverse and wide ranging, and is expanding five times faster than the general economy. We are poised to continue building on that success and creating jobs here in Michigan, and the fruits and vegetables sector is prepared to help lead that charge."
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said, "In his State of the Union Address, President Obama laid out a blueprint for an economy that's built to last and that vision involves exploiting core opportunities for economic growth. USDA, through this program, is acting as a catalyst for business development and job creation in rural America."
Last year, Chairwoman Stabenow announced the introduction of her Grow it Here, Make it Here initiative, with Working Bugs owner Dianne Holman last October, to advance Michigan's emerging bio-based manufacturing industry. Bio-based manufacturing, using agriculture goods to make value-added products, is an industry poised to grow and create jobs in Michigan. The Grow it Here, Make it Here initiative provides a 30% tax cut for new, expanded, or re-equipped bio-manufacturing projects.
Located in East Lansing, Working Bugs, LLC will process corn grown at Berglund Farms in Illinois by the same owners, Kris Berglund & Dianne Holman, to process two bio-based chemical products; a nail polish remover and a hand sanitizer. Berglund Farms will receive $269,278.
Uncle John's Cider Mill in St. Johns will receive $42,024. By converting to aluminum can packaging, they will increase overall sales of their hard cider, as that packaging is preferred by wholesale distributors, retailers and consumers.