RICHMOND, Va. — Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Brunswick, Lee, Lunenburg, and Rockingham Counties will each receive grants from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund Planning Grant program to support local agriculture initiatives.
“We are pleased to see localities continue to use AFID Planning Grants to further embed agriculture into their current recovery efforts and long-term economic development plans,” said Governor Northam. “Identifying and supporting local initiatives like these that strengthen and diversify Virginia’s agricultural economy is critical to positioning this vital industry for success in the years to come.”
Brunswick and Lunenburg Counties submitted a joint application for $35,000 in AFID funds to help develop architectural and engineering plans for a proposed large-scale produce processing facility. The facility will be operated by Southside Virginia Vegetable Packing, LLC (SVVP) and provide infrastructure that allows the region’s former tobacco producers to transition to vegetable production. Organic and conventional vegetable crops offer former tobacco farmers a stable and growing market opportunity that leverages existing farmland, labor, and production equipment to maintain and expand their operations. SVVP has seen tremendous growth through its existing fruit and vegetable production, aggregation, and distribution, leading to the need for a larger produce processing facility to meet increasing demand. The AFID Planning Grant award will leverage an additional $90,000 in local funds.
Lee County and the surrounding region is also experiencing a shift from tobacco to vegetable production. The $20,000 AFID Planning Grant will be used to fund a feasibility study for locating a produce auction in the county. The AFID award will leverage $20,000 in funding from the county and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission to develop a business and marketing plan, identify a suitable site, and create a design for the proposed produce auction facility.
Lastly, Rockingham County is exploring the feasibility of an anaerobic digester to provide the county’s large agriculture and food and beverage manufacturing sectors with a sustainable disposal option for their organic waste streams. Anaerobic digesters are an established technology that accepts organic wastes and processes them into useful soil amendments and fertilizers, while also producing a methane bio-gas that can be used locally or sold back to a gas utility. The $20,000 AFID Planning Grant will be matched with local funds and will explore the financial feasibility of such a facility, available waste streams, potential locations, and ownership structures.
“Embracing innovation and exploring new opportunities in agriculture is key to the growth and prosperity of rural communities,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “Congratulations to Lee County, Rockingham County, and Brunswick and Lunenburg Counties for recognizing the importance of our local agriculture industries and supporting local farmers and producers by creating and expanding new markets to maintain and grow their farms.”
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which administers the AFID Planning Grant program, accepts applications for the program on a rolling basis. Successful applications demonstrate a clear need, a proposed solution, strong support from local government and the agriculture and forestry community, and the ability to provide matching funds. Additional information about the AFID Planning Grant program is available here. Questions about the program and application process should be directed to Jennifer.Perkins@vdacs.virginia.gov.
–Michael Wallace, VDACS