Earlier this month, Governor Ralph Northam announced a new way for local governments to support agriculture- and forestry-based businesses during the COVID-19 emergency through 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.”
In response to the ongoing public health crisis, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), which administers the AFID Planning Grant program, will expedite award decisions for applications addressing COVID-19 related challenges. Newly revised program guidelines also provide 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.
“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 governor’s AFID fund is a discretionary, performance-based economic development incentive that is specifically for agriculture and forestry value-added or processing projects. While AFID Planning Grants can fund a wide range of activities that support agriculture- and forestry-based industries, VDACS is currently 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.”