A new grant program through the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) offers ag goods innovators a shot at up to $25,000 in grant funds.

Called the Choose Iowa Marketing and Promotion Grant Program, it is meant to help farmers, businesses and nonprofits increase or diversify agricultural product offerings and make it easier for the public to access goods produced in Iowa.

“I’m excited to see what comes in through this application process,” Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said last week. 

Individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations currently living or operating in Iowa may apply for a grant. 

Those applications will be scor­ed, with preference given to small- and medium-size businesses. 

Details about the grant program, including what projects and expenses are eligible, the financial matching requirements and an application, are available at chooseiowa.com/grant-program.

“I expect there will be more applications than we can fund this year,” Naig said. 

Applications must be submitted to IDALS by Dec. 15.

Naig said the program is funded by $250,000 approved by the Iowa Legislature earlier this year. 

“We purposefully kept the criteria for the grants broad because we want to encourage creative and innovative ideas,” he said.  

IDALS initiated similar funding award programs last year using federal CARES Act funds to support food banks and help small meat lockers expand their operations. 

“We’re trying to take something good out of last year,” Naig said. “One thing we learned is we need to shorten our supply chains. A way to accomplish this is to help farmers sell their products, from meat and dairy to specialty crops, direct to consumers.”

Eligible business ideas must increase sales of Iowa agricultural products by increasing production capacity or expanding market access for value-added projects, not be in progress until a grant is awarded, be completed in 18 months or less of the grant award, and be conducted in Iowa, IDALS said on its website.

All grants will be based on a one-to-one match, meaning ap­­plications must include a commitment to match the re­­quested amount, if awarded.

Naig sees the idea of “Choose Iowa” going beyond just this one grant opportunity and toward an overall focus on empowering Iowans to innovate and bolster the state’s food system.

Another program, also now ac­­cepting applications, the Butchery Innovation and Revitalization Program, is aimed at filling the need for high quality, safe and nutritious Iowa-grown livestock products.

“I think these programs will give some Iowa producers the ability to control their own destiny, to sell their own products,” Naig said. 

To learn more about the Choose Iowa grants or to apply, visit chooseiowa.com/grant-program. For more on the Butchery Innovation grants, go online to  bit.ly/3jlTH9G.