RICHMOND—Virginia’s oldest and most powerful economic sector now has a development fund, and the latest round of planning grants to help spur business activity in the countryside were announced late last year.
The Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund has approved grants totaling $60,500 for a feasibility study on establishing a Virginia wine heritage center in Albemarle County; a study of ways to expand various agribusiness and forest businesses in the Rappahannock-Rapidan Region Planning District; and exploration of strategies to link Virginia Tech’s Catawba Sustainability Center to Roanoke County’s local food businesses.
“The benefit of this fund is it’s a matching grant between the state, the locality and the agribusiness involved,” said Trey Davis, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation assistant director of governmental relations. “These funds are to be used exclusively to benefit the agribusiness in that locality. The secretary of agriculture and forestry reviews the applications to be sure there’s maximum bang for the buck with these projects.
“This most recent announcement is exciting, because we’re seeing that the money that was appropriated for these projects is already being used; in fact applications are coming in quicker than expected.”
Davis said Farm Bureau and other agriculture groups supported the legislation as a good way to give rural economies and rural businesses a boost.
“People are working together to funnel these dollars to long-term projects,” he said. “And these projects can be very flexible. For instance, if four to 10 localities want to get together to develop a proposal, we think they should be able to.”
Another $149,500 is available in the AFID grant program for fiscal year 2014.
Contact Davis at 804-290-1017 or Norm Hyde, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1146.