The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management announced today that it has established a program to award grants ranging in size from $2,500 to $10,000 to support Rhode Island farmers and food businesses that produce and distribute specialty crops such as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops including floriculture.

These “mini-grants,” administered by DEM’s Division of Agriculture and Forest Environment, will be eligible to applicants whose operations have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID continues to affect our country in so many ways, including challenging small businesspeople who produce specialty crops and have needed to quickly and completely pivot their operations as demand shifted away from traditional markets like restaurants and food service,” said DEM Director Terry Gray. “DEM hopes that these mini-grants will help Rhode Island’s small-scale producers mitigate costs and bring home a greater share of the food dollar.”

In response to COVID-19, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Management and Budget has provided flexibilities to grant applicants and grant recipients through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP). Funds awarded through DEM’s new mini-grant program must still meet the requirements of SCBGP, but there is an emphasis on projects that COVID-19 assistance and relief.

Mini-grants must fit within one of the three funding areas:

o COVID-related expense relief: A part of this funding will be used to assist businesses, organizations, and individuals with eligible expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

o Produce safety: This grant can help defray the costs of implementing on-farm food safety practices to help growers transition to compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule and/or meet market demands for on-farm food safety. This can include improvements to irrigation systems that mitigate risk associated with agricultural water use in lieu of current drought conditions.

o Digital media: This grant can provide funding for modernization and access to digital media for eligible entities. It is meant to increase/improve a producer’s market access.

All applications must be submitted on DEM’s website. Applications will be accepted from Aug. 9-Dec. 31, 2022 at 11:59 PM. For more information about the grant process, please visit the grant website.

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