Late last week, the Washington state Department of Agriculture was awarded more than $16 million in grants to help small farms and food businesses recover from ongoing economic impacts from the pandemic.  State lawmakers created the Local Food System Infrastructure Grants to improve the strength and resiliency Washington’s food systems.  Applicants offered proposals in record-breaking numbers, with requests totaling over $148 million, more than nine times the available funding.


“The remarkable level of interest in these grants demonstrates the clear need for investment in local food system infrastructure in Washington,” Laura Raymond, manager of the WSDA Regional Markets Program, said. “Each application represented an opportunity to build capacity and resilience into our food system; we really wish we could fund many more of these worthwhile activities.”


Applications were accepted from farmers, ranchers, food processors, food distributors, and other small businesses and organizations that aggregate, process, manufacture, transport, store, or sell foods that have been grown, caught, or raised in Washington state for Washington consumers.  Grant amounts ranged from $10,000 to $750,000.


Award beneficiaries can use grant funds for costs to improve local food system post-harvest infrastructure and market access such as equipment, facility improvements, supply chain and market access coordination, food safety improvements, workforce development, and related operating costs.  The Washington State Legislature provided funds from the federal American Recovery Plan Act to improve local food system infrastructure, supply chains, and market access for farms, food processors, and food distributors.  The legislature prioritized support for small business, including those owned by women and minorities.


“The COVID-19 pandemic affected small farms and food businesses,” Derek Sandison, Director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture, said. “Recovery and support of small businesses engaged in the local food supply system is essential to enhancing resiliency and assuring that adequate food supplies are available to protect public health."


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