PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are announcing today that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded $161,158 to DEM through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) to help Rhode Island farmers expand market access for local fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery crops.

The program aims to enhance the competitiveness of farmers by increasing consumption through consumer awareness of Rhode Island-grown produce and plants through buy-local promotions; create new marketing opportunities for suppliers of produce and specialty crop plants through nontraditional markets; and research and develop new crops to introduce to producers to incorporate into the mix of produce and plants already grown and offered in the state.

“COVID-19 showed us how crucial it is to improve systems that provide all Rhode Islanders with consistent access to safe, healthy, and affordable food,” said Governor McKee. “This specialty crop grant program will encourage new and better markets for producers and consumers and improve the resiliency of our food supply chain.”

“DEM is always working to support local farmers and planters in growing their businesses,” said DEM Director Terry Gray. “Specialty Crop Block Grants help achieve more home-grown Rhode Island food on the table, help the environment by minimizing transportation costs and reducing carbon emissions, and boost the local economy while providing the freshest product possible to the consumer. These grants are investments that will further enhance the share of profits for those who grow, harvest, process, and prepare our food.”

The grant recipients are:

o The Rhode Island Fruit Growers Association $22,260 – Improved integrated pest management (IPM) for Rhode specialty crop growers through accurate weather data.

o Southside Community Land Trust $38,640 – Outreach and education to socially disadvantaged farmers for growing specialty crops to meet underserved markets.

o The Rhode Island Food Policy Council $29,937.60 – Equitable growth and technical assistance for small and beginning Rhode Island specialty crop producers.

o Farm Fresh Rhode Island $37,776 – growing local food champions and exploring local food with culinary students.

o The RI Farm Incubator $32,541 – Increasing yields in high-intensity specialty vegetables for regional growers through integrated cropping methods.

Since 2016, DEM has awarded more than $900,000 in grants through the USDA SCBGP. SCBGP assists state departments of agriculture to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. This round funding to Rhode Island is part of a total of $72.9 million in non-competitive FY 2022 SCBGP funding awarded to 55 states, territories, and the District of Columbia.

The funding for the SCBGP grants is authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill and FY2022 funding is awarded for a
three-year period beginning September 30, 2022. More information about the 2022 SCBGP awarded grants is available on this webpage.

For more information about DEM divisions and programs, visit www.dem.ri.gov or follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM), or Instagram (@rhodeisland.dem) for timely updates.

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