New Programs to Benefit Farmers and Rural Businesses Announced

ANNAPOLIS - The Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation ("MARBIDCO") is now offering low-cost financing programs to assist farmers and other rural business owners with entrepreneurial or innovative business activities. Examples of innovative business activities include on-farm and value-added food processing, niche product development and marketing, smaller scale secondary wood products manufacturing, and business-related technology enhancements (especially those related to energy efficiency).

The Corporation's mission is to help agricultural and resource-based businesses to innovate, diversify and exploit emerging market opportunities in food and fiber production and in rural tourism and recreation. MARBIDCO's programming is also designed with the aim of helping to increase rural business sustainability and profitability while at the same time contributing to the preservation of Maryland's rural working landscape of productive farms and forests.

The deadlines to apply for MARBIDCO financial and business planning assistance varies by the individual program. MARBIDCO's low-interest loan programs also generally require the participation of commercial lenders. See below for more information concerning the individual programs:

* Maryland Farm and Producer Viability Program is designed to improve the financial viability of producers/processors or assist fledging rural entrepreneurs through specialized business planning assistance. The aim of the program is to help early stage enterprises with operational and market risk assessment and with enhanced business plan development. APPLICATION DEADLINE: May 18, 2007 (for the 2007 pilot program).

* Maryland Resource-Based Industry Financing Fund offers low-interest loans to established agricultural, forestry or seafood businesses for the purchase of land and capital equipment for production and processing activities, or environmental enhancement projects. Priority is given to value-added and niche market-oriented projects as well as beginning or transitioning producers and processors. MARBIDCO will provide up to 50% of the financing needed for a project, and a commercial lender and/or a public instrumentality must also have an equal financial commitment in any transaction. MARBIDCO will also take second position on the collateral security. DEADLINE: June 1, 2007 (for loans to be made in the current fiscal year).

* Rural Business Energy Efficiency Grants and Loan Interest Rate Buy-Downs helps established firms and producers to purchase equipment or technology related to lowering farm and business-related energy consumption. Grants of up to 10% of a project's cost (maximum of $5,000), are available for eligible activities. A copy of an energy audit report provided by a qualified third-party consultant is required. DEADLINE: June 1, 2007 (for loans to be made in the current fiscal year).

* MARBIDCO is also working in conjunction with the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation to institute an Installment Purchase Agreements Program that will enable landowners that sell agricultural property easements to the State (or county governments) to use tax-advantaged financial arrangements structured to benefit both landowners and the public. This program is expected to become available sometime in mid-summer.

Additional information about MARBIDCO's programs can be found on the web at:

Source: Maryland Dept. of Agriculture

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