January 18, 2018

Grants available to farmers, fishermen

News Source: The Jamestown Press

To increase the competitiveness of local food in the marketplace, the state Department of Environmental Management is awarding $380,000 to farmers and fishermen across the Ocean State.

These grants already have invested $3 million to accelerate the growth of Rhode Island’s green sector, including $5,000 in spring 2014 for a Jamestowner to expand his Dutch Harbor shellfish farm.

“Investing in these popular grant programs boosts our state’s vibrant food economy,” said Janet Coit, state environmental director. “Farming and fishing are an important part of our heritage.”

Maximum awards of $20,000 are available through the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act to spur the growth of the agriculture and seafood industries. Eligible applicants include farmers, fishermen, food producers and nonprofit organizations that are connected to a small business or startup venture. Funding can be used for capital projects or to administer programs. Priority is given to initiatives that support the entry, growth and sustainability of farmers and fishermen; foster new collaborations among Rhode Island’s food partners; support new products or sales channels for clearly defined markets; enhance access to agricultural land for producers, including farm transition planning and implementation; or address implementation gaps in the state’s food strategy, which is outlined on the Relish Rhody website.

Now in its fifth year, the program is a public-private partnership administered jointly with the Rhode Island Food Policy Council. A total of $230,000 is available in 2018. Applications on the council’s website are due by March 1.

The second program offers viability grants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 to support the local production of specialty crops, which are fruits, vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts and nursery crops, including floriculture and turf grass.

Eligible applicants must be engaged in research or marketing of these crops, including improvements to food safety and plant health. Initiatives that benefit a sole commercial product or provide a profit to a single individual or group will not be considered. A total of $150,000 is available for this grant round. Forms are available on the Department of Environmental Management’s website. Applications accompanied by a W-9 form should be mailed to the Division of Agriculture, Room 370, 235 Promenade St., Providence, RI 02908. They should be postmarked no later than March 31.

In addition to these grant programs, the state supports 60,000 jobs in Rhode Island. The department continues to make investments in critical infrastructure as well as provide farm incubation space to new farmers through its Urban Edge and Snake Den farm properties. Rhode Island is one of few states where the number of farms is on the rise — now standing at 1,243 farms. The state is also a leader in the nation in the percentage of its farms selling directly to the public. Green industries in Rhode Island account for more than 15,000 jobs and contribute $2.5 billion to the economy.

Local seafood is poised to spur the next wave of economic growth, Coit said. In partnership with the Seafood Marketing Collaborative, the state developed a brand to uniquely identify Rhode Island seafood in the marketplace. In 2016, more than 106 million pounds of seafood arrived at Rhode Island ports with an export value over $1 billion.