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Applications open Tuesday for $1.25 million in COVID-10 aid for small farms

Farmer Randy Miller is shown with his soybeans, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, at his farm in Lacona, Iowa.

(The Center Square) – The Michigan Economic Development Corporation will begin accepting applications for $1.25 million in grants for eligible small farms at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

The program uses federal coronavirus relief funding to award grants to small farms to mitigate COVID-19 costs.

Eligible costs include COVID-19 testing, personal protection equipment, facility needs, increased sanitation costs, employee training, and upgraded safety procedures for farm-provided housing.

“We saw an opportunity to respond to a clear need for support from Michigan’s small farms to build on the tremendous response from farms and food processors across the state applying for Michigan Agricultural Safety Grants,” MEDC CEO Mark A. Burton said in a statement.

“The MEDC Small Farm Safety Grant will allow us additional security in our food industry and provide much-needed relief to farmers across Michigan.”

Grants will be limited to $1,000 per employee for costs incurred from June 1, 2020, through Sept. 15, 2020.

Grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis until funding is depleted.

Eligible applicants must be located in Michigan and meet the following requirements:

  • Have fewer than 10 employees in Michigan, with supporting documentation.
  • Provide proof of good standing with the state of Michigan, as applicable
  • Attest that the business is current on all state, local and real estate taxes, or is otherwise contesting them in good faith.
  • Have completed registration in the State of Michigan Integrated Governmental Management Applications Vendor Self-Service website prior to applying for grant funding.

“Just like other small businesses, small farms and food processors are the backbone of the food and agriculture industry and are fundamental to our entire food supply chain,” Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Gary McDowell said.

“Michigan continues to be a leader in supporting the state’s farming community throughout COVID-19. MEDC’s quick response to help our small farmers meet their health and safety needs is a perfect example of that commitment.”

MDARD says that food and agriculture contribute $104.7 billion annually to Michigan’s economy, and represent 805,000 jobs across the state.

Craig Anderson, Agricultural Labor & Safety Services Program manager at the Michigan Farm Bureau, told The Center Square the program could help as many as 42,000 farms.

Many of the farms don’t have a Human Resource department and are often comprised of family members, Anderson said.

“This program can be very beneficial for those that are currently struggling,” Anderson said.

Many farms only bring on employees for labor-intensive periods such as planting and harvesting, Anderson said, and the program will allow employers to get up to speed on required provisions.

COVID-19 testing is free for major testing sites in some large cities, but Anderson said many farms are in rural areas where testing can cost up to $100.

East Lansing-based GreenStone Farm Credit Services will process and recommend applications to the MEDC for final approval.

“After just a few weeks to get the Michigan Agricultural Safety Grant program off the ground, it’s energizing to see MEDC’s adaptability to find additional resources to support farms with less than 10 employees,” GreenStone President and CEO Dave Armstrong said in a press release.

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