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Friday, January 23, 2015

A new round of grants available for raising specialty crops

Grant Applications must be submitted to DEM's Division of Agriculture by March 31

2011 Art animated GIF

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management announces that $150,000 in farm viability grant funding is available for projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops grown in Rhode Island. 

The funds are from the US Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop Block Grant program. Specialty crops are defined by this federally-supported program as fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, and nursery crops including floriculture, honey, hops and turf grass production.

Grant awards will range from $10,000 to $50,000 with no direct match required. Funding will be provided in two stages, with 50 percent of the monies given up front and the remainder provided at the satisfactory completion of the project. The grants may be used for projects of up to two years in duration.

Funds may be used for research, promotion, marketing, nutrition, trade enhancement, food safety, food security, plant health, product development, education, "buy local" initiatives, and for programs that provide for increased consumption and innovation, improved efficiency and reduced costs of distribution systems, environmental concerns and conservation, and development of cooperatives. Grant funds may not be spent on construction projects.

"These grants will enhance our state's economy and environment by strengthening markets for specialty crops grown in Rhode Island," said Governor Gina Raimondo. "The economic impact from green-industry businesses in Rhode Island is tremendous, and we look forward to funding a host of innovative projects that support local agriculture and our food economy through this grant program."

DEM's Division of Agriculture
 oversees or supports numerous efforts designed to maintain the viability of farming in Rhode Island, including locally-produced milk, meats and locally-harvested seafood, farmers' markets, and buy local programs.

DEM Director Janet Coit said, "These grants will promote the long-term viability of agriculture in our state and help sustain the livelihood of Rhode Island farmers. Consumer demand for locally-grown products is constantly increasing. This can be seen across the state, from the expansion of farmers’ markets to the promotion of delicious local produce, meats and seafood in our outstanding restaurants.

"We want to remind farmers, fishers and local food advocates that approximately $200,000 is also currently available in grant funding through the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act (LASA) program," noted Ken Ayars, chief of DEM's Division of Agriculture. "Between the LASA and Specialty Crop Block Grant program there is over $350,000 in grant funding available through DEM to support Rhode Island's local food economy." 

Applications for the LASA grants are due by February 17. Information on LASA is available online on DEM's Division of Agriculture website at by clicking on the Grant Opportunities tab on the left side of the webpage.

DEM awarded $183,586 in farm viability grants last fall for a wide range of purposes, such as enhancing food safety practices among farmers and produce vendors at farmers’ markets; increasing the consumption of specialty crops by the Latino population and decreasing obesity rates among participating families; and supporting agricultural research at Rhode Island College on the honeybee population. 

Any Rhode Island agricultural or educational association or organization, individual farmer, or resident is eligible to apply. Grant applications and projects must further the competitiveness of specialty crops as broadly as possible in Rhode Island, and not just serve to enhance individual farm viability pursuant to USDA program guidelines. 

Grant funds will not be awarded for projects that solely benefit a particular commercial product or provide a profit to a single organization, institution, or individual. Single organizations, institutions, and individuals are encouraged to participate as project partners.

A downloadable application is available on DEM/Agriculture website by clicking on "Grant Opportunities" on the left side of the homepage. For grant-related questions, contact Peter Susi, deputy chief of DEM's Division of Agriculture at 222-2781, ext. 4517. 

Applications accompanied by a W9 form must be postmarked no later than March 31, 2015 and sent to DEM's Division of Agriculture, Room 370, 235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908 to be considered. Grant proposals will be reviewed by the DEM Agricultural Advisory Committee, which will make funding recommendations to the Department.

The 3,327 green industry businesses in Rhode Island sustain 15,826 jobs and contribute $2.5 billion annually to our state’s economy. On top of these economic benefits, agriculture also contributes to tourism, open space, quality of life, and access to local foods and horticultural products.