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Virginia launches grant program to support local agriculture and forestry industries

Photo credit: WDBJ7
Photo credit: WDBJ7(WHSV)
Published: Jun. 12, 2020 at 4:19 PM EDT
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Virginia has launched a new grant program specifically to benefit agriculture and forestry-based small businesses across the commonwealth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Governor Ralph Northam announced the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund Planning Grant program.

“Virginia’s agribusiness community faces unprecedented challenges due to the ongoing public health crisis, and I am committed to using every tool we have to support them,” said Governor Northam. “As Virginia’s first and third largest industries, agriculture and forestry will play a leading role in our economic recovery by making this program more accessible to our local government partners, we can grow the impact of their efforts.”

As the public health crisis continues, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), which administers the AFID Planning Grant program, will expedite decisions on awards for applications that address COVID-19-related challenges.

According to the governor's office, newly revised guidelines for the program offer broad flexibility in the types of projects that can be supported and allow for a reduced local match requirement for economically distressed communities.

Funding available through the AFID Planning Grant program is designed to "empower localities to develop creative solutions tailored to their unique needs," the governor's office says.

“Virginia’s agriculture and forestry sectors have been impacted greatly by the COVID-19 crisis, but that also means they can play a powerful role in re-building our economy,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “I am glad VDACS is able to provide resources to empower Virginia’s local governments to better assist their agribusiness companies.”

The AFID fund is a discretionary, performance-based economic development incentive that is specifically for agriculture and forestry value-added or processing projects.

Grants through it can fund a wide range of activities that support agriculture- and forestry-based industries, but the agriculture department is encouraging localities to focus on addressing the unique problems created by COVID-19: especially the loss of market access through some traditional channels.

“Such initiatives could include funding for website development to connect growers and customers, shared refrigerated storage facilities, or offsetting last mile product delivery fees,” said VDACS Commissioner Dr. Jewel Bronaugh. “Individual communities can apply for grants of up to $20,000, while two or more communities can apply jointly for up to $35,000 in grant funding.”

Additional information about the AFID Planning Grant program can be found

.