A $31,500 grant from the USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant program will help Alabama’s Satsuma growers expand their markets, says Steve Pelham, state director for USDA Rural Development.”USDA Rural Development is pleased to invest in the efforts to help further develop the Satsuma industry in Alabama,” Pelham said following a brief check presentation ceremony during the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 86th annual meeting in Mobile last December. “This private-public partnership will provide an opportunity for Satsuma producers to expand their markets while creating new customers that benefit from Alabama-grown produce.”The ceremony was also attended by Satsuma Steering Committee members George Warden, Art Sessions and John Neighbors, Federation staff and Sen. Jeff Sessions. Other members of the committee include Ken Buck or Mobile County and Dallas Hartzog of Henry County.The grant to the Satsuma Steering Committee of the Federation’s Horticulture Division was part of a larger $22.7 million Value-Added grant that was divided among 162 recipients in 40 states and Puerto Rico in 2007.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 Development has committed more than $158 million to value-added agricultural investments since 2001.The USDA Rural Development grant will assist the Satsuma Steering Committee in developing a business plan and feasibility study to successfully process and market Satsumas for Alabama farmers.The feasibility study will examine the market attractiveness of processed Satsuma products, assess the competitive environment a new Satsuma cooperative may encounter, evaluate current and potential Satsuma supply in Alabama and define the business and operating dynamics of the envisioned Satsuma grower cooperative. The business planning component of the project will include conducting an evaluation of technical requirements of establishing a grower co-op in Alabama (such as capital and operating costs) and conducting a detailed financial and sensitivity analysis of the venture.The overall goal of the committee is to establish a sustainable, profitable processing co-op that will support the rural economy by providing jobs and increasing revenue in farming, food processing and retailing. 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.”We are appreciative of this opportunity from USDA Rural Development and our matching funds partners,” said Brian Hardin, director of the Federation’s Horticulture Division. “Through this grant, we anticipate learning more about this industry’s incredible potential, and we’ll be able to do much more and do it much faster than we would have otherwise.”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, more winter-hardy varieties have helped the crop to get a new foothold.
Value-Added Grant Will Help Grow Alabama Satsuma Market