Funds to increase competitiveness of R.I. agricultural products and local seafood
Governor Lincoln D. Chafee announced today that the Department of Environmental Management is accepting applications for Local Agriculture and Seafood Act (LASA) grants, which will assist small or beginning farmers promote and market their agricultural products grown in Rhode Island, as well as local seafood businesses.
This new program is made possible by $100,000 in state funding that Governor Chafee and the General Assembly included in the DEM budget, and includes an additional $110,000 in matching funds from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, the Henry P. Kendall Foundation, and the Rhode Island Foundation. DEM is coordinating with the Rhode Island Food Policy Council to administer the program. This unique and unprecedented public-private partnership will provide grants intended to directly benefit and strengthen R.I.'s local food system. "The program addresses the promotion and marketing of two fast growing sectors of our economy. Both have managed to do well during the economic downturn," Governor Chafee said. "These funds will ensure that the sale of locally grown agricultural products and seafood will continue to thrive, and that these businesses become even more of a key employer in our state." "Farming and fishing are areas of economic growth in Rhode Island, and this new grant program will catalyze and support local businesses," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "This initiative is one of many efforts taken by DEM to support local agriculture and our state's food economy." Nonprofit entities, along with small or beginning farmers are eligible to apply for the grants. The program is designed to increase the economic competitiveness of Rhode Island-grown agricultural products and local seafood.
Grants will be capped at $20,000 but can be potentially matched by Foundation funds. Funding will be provided up front and may be used for projects/programs of up to two years in duration, and they must serve one or more of the following purposes in order to be eligible:
* Assist in the marketing of Rhode Island-grown agricultural products and local seafood for the purpose of sale and promotion;
* Enhance the economic competitiveness of Rhode Island grown agricultural products and local seafood;
* Provide financial and technical assistance support to organizations and producers for activities and programs which enhance the economic viability of local agriculture, and support the development of a locally based, safe and sustainable food system;
* Perform other activities necessary to facilitate the success and viability of the state's agricultural and seafood sectors.
In addition to providing grants for projects or programs, the LASA Grants Program may also provide capital grants to small or beginning Rhode Island farmers to support the growth and sustainability of Rhode Island's farming and aquaculture industries. Priority will be given to capital projects from small or beginning farmers, or projects that directly benefit small or beginning farmers; projects that foster new collaborations between producers, fishermen/women, other Rhode Island food enterprises and organizations; and projects supporting new products or new sales channels that have clearly defined markets. Any Rhode Island based nonprofit organization, farmer, fisherman/woman, or producer group is eligible to apply. Only small and/or beginning farmers, or producer groups of small or beginning farmers, are eligible to apply for capital grants. The funds cannot be used for non-project related travel, scholarships, general operating funds, on-going capital campaigns, political or policy advocacy campaigns, or conference/workshop attendance fees. Technical Assistance Sessions, Conference Call Planned in March Two assistance sessions on the LASA Grant Program application have been planned in March. The first will take place on Monday, March 10, from 6-7 p.m. at the Knight Memorial Library auditorium (275 Elmwood Ave., Providence). The second session will be held on Saturday, March 22, from 3-4 p.m. at the South Kingstown Library at Peace Dale (1057 Kingstown Road, Peace Dale).
In addition, there will be a LASA assistance conference call on Wednesday March 26, from 6-7 p.m. (Conference Dial-in Number: (712) 432-1500, Participant Access Code: 930319#). The LASA Grant Program application will be discussed and questions will be answered at each of these sessions.
For additional information or questions, please visit the LASA Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on the RI Food Policy Council website. Additional questions may be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions submitted and responses provided will be posted publicly to the LASA FAQ webpage.
Grant proposals will be reviewed by the LASA Grants Program Advisory Committee, which will make funding recommendations to the Department. Applicants will be notified of award decisions by May 1. The Committee was established to advise and assist the Department in matters related to the Local Agriculture and Seafood Small Grants and Technical Assistance Program and to facilitate the coordination of the Program with outside resources. Regulations governing the program are posted online on DEM's website at www.dem.ri.gov/pubs/regs/regs/agric/lasa13.pdf. DEM's Division of Agriculture oversees 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 and agri-tourism programs. The 2,500 green industry businesses in Rhode Island sustain 12,300 jobs and contribute $1.7 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 agricultural products.