Governor Terry McAuliffe, First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, and Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore joined U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the State Fair of Virginia to announce that the Commonwealth was awarded nearly $1.2 million in USDA funding to support local food economies. Authorized through the Agricultural Act of 2014 (the 2014 Farm Bill), Virginia received funding from three participating programs aimed at strengthening organic local and regional food systems through projects that recruit and train farmers, expand economic opportunities, and increase access to healthy foods.
“The awards announced today will not only help to achieve my goal of building a new Virginia economy through supporting local farmers and entrepreneurs, it will also strengthen Virginia’s largest industry, agriculture, and help bring Virginia’s fresh produce to market,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe. “By collaborating with our private and public sector partners like the USDA, these programs are smart, targeted investments needed to position our economy for new opportunities, especially in agriculture and forestry.”
“Virginia’s agricultural economy plays a significant role in ensuring that all Virginia families and children are fed, and fed well,” added First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe. “By supporting programs that provide Virginians access to healthy foods, both in the home and in our schools, we can create more pathways to economic success for Virginia children and families, and we can generate economic growth in entire communities.”
Virginia received a total of $1,178,409 from three programs to fund 18 projects across the state. Seven projects developing, expanding, and providing training and technical assistance to direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities received $623,923 in funding from the Farmers Market Promotion Program. Eight projects received at total of $353,064 from the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) which focuses on processing, distributing, or storing locally or regionally produced food products. Finally, $201,422 from the Federal State Market Improvement Program was awarded to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) to assist three projects in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the efficiency and performance of the marketing system.
“Today’s announcements by Secretary Vilsack provide exciting news for Virginia’s agricultural producers and help to continue the McAuliffe Administration’s efforts to make agriculture a part of building a New Virginia Economy,” said Secretary Todd Haymore. “As Virginia’s largest industry, agriculture has a role to play in strengthening rural economies and providing healthy, wholesome foods to Virginians as well as consumers around the world. Grants like the ones announced today help producers engage in value-added processing of their goods while directly reaching consumers, enabling them to retain a larger share of revenue and providing consumers with more local foods.”
The resources announced today will support farmers and small business owners across the Commonwealth, including M. James Faison, owner of Milton’s Local Harvest in Hopewell, who was present at the event. Receiving a grant from the Local Food Promotion Program, Faison will develop aggregation and wholesale distribution channels for farmers producing local swine and cattle products in Virginia. The project will improve the commercial access of small to medium scale farmers allowing wholesalers to source locally and increasing consumer access to local, sustainable, and healthy meat.
Earlier today, Secretary Vilsack also joined First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe at Carver Elementary School in Richmond to discuss the Community Eligibility Provision, which allows Virginia public schools to provide their students with free breakfast and lunch. During the visit, Secretary Vilsack also announced that USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture is making up to $31.5 million in funding available to help participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program more easily afford healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables.