Governor Dan McKee, Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, and the Rhode Island General Assembly pledged their support to continue funding the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act (LASA), an important catalyst in strengthening the local food system, at historically high levels in fiscal year 2024.
Authored by Senator V. Susan Sosnowski in 2012 and run by the Department of Environmental Management (DEM), the LASA program helps new and existing small food businesses grow and flourish. Since the COVID pandemic, DEM has steered the program to prioritize building capacity for markets connecting local farms and fishers with food-insecure communities and supporting agriculture producers and fishers who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color – along with developing small food businesses.
The fiscal year 2023 budget enacted by the legislature and signed by McKee funded LASA at $700,000 – nearly three times more than the fiscal 2022 level. McKee’s “RI Ready” fiscal 2024 budget submitted to the General Assembly in January proposes another $700,000 for the program.
“LASA is a pillar of our food strategy through which Rhode Island is investing to provide consistent access to safe, healthy, affordable food – and to give a foothold to small businesses in the green economy,” said Governor McKee. “Since 2012 and including the grant awards announced today, LASA has provided more than $2 million to assist dozens of small businesses across the state. I look forward to working with the General Assembly to ensure the continued historic funding of this worthy program.”
“I applaud the commitment, partnership, and funding that have resulted in a program that addresses food and economic inequities and fosters a sense of social interconnectedness,” said Lt. Governor Matos. “I am especially impressed by the LASA program’s commitment to supporting agriculture and seafood producers who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and look forward to seeing how recipients use their grants to make Rhode Island’s food system more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive.”
“The Local Agriculture and Seafood Act has always been about being firmly committed to our constituents and sending the message that we are 100 percent behind local businesses,” said Senator Sosnowski. “Local food gets from farm to table in fresher condition and means fewer trucks on the road, which means less air pollution. LASA encourages more people to eat more local food. This means better health for Rhode Islanders and our environment.”
“Food security means that all people, always, have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food,” said Representative Teresa Tanzi. “Of its many benefits, maybe the biggest is that the LASA program strengthens food security and builds our communities. My district includes farms, food businesses, shellfishing, and the Port of Galilee, where most of Rhode Island’s commercial fishing fleet operates, so I’ve seen firsthand how LASA grants catalyze growth and look forward to the success stories that the grantees announced today will bring into being.”
“DEM is always working to get more home-grown food on the table and by supporting local farmers and fishers in growing their businesses, the LASA grants help achieve this,” said DEM Director Terry Gray. “Growing local and eating local, fresh, sustainable food minimizes transportation costs, reduces carbon emissions, and boosts the local economy while providing the freshest product possible to the consumer.”
LASA 2023 grantees:
African Alliance of RI
Blue Acres Aquaculture
Cluck and Trowel
Commercial Fisheries Center of RI
Cranston Health Equity Zone
Cucumber Hill Farm
Earth Care Farm
Fresh Harvest Kitchen
Great Salt Pond Oyster Co.
Hard Pressed Cider Co.
Hawk and Handsaw Farm LLC
Informal Cooperative of Farmers
Land and Sea Together
Little Rhody Bee Keeping LLC
Long Lane Farm
New England Grassfed LLC
North Star Shellfish Co.
Phillip Yang Farm
RI Food Policy Council
RI Seafood Marketing Collaborative
RI Shellfisherman’s Assoc.
Rocky Rhode Island Oyster Co.
Saltbox Sea Farm
Saunderstown Garlic Farm
Southside Community Land Trust
Sweet Fern Farm
Sweet Pea Farm
The Farm LLC
Tiverton Farmers’ Market
Water Way Farm
Wilson Community Farm
The 2023 programming funding priorities include:
Supporting the entry, growth, and sustainability of small or beginning agriculture producers and fishers.
Supporting agriculture producers and fishers that are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
Supporting the development of new marketing, promotion, sales, and/or distribution channels.
Supporting the development of new products, including value-added processing capacity.
Fostering new cooperatives, partnerships, and/or collaborations among Rhode Island agriculture producers and fishers and supporting organizations.
Fostering and building capacity for markets connecting local farms and fishers with Rhode Island’s food insecure communities.
Protecting the future availability of agricultural land for producers, including farm transition planning and implementation, and assisting with on farm food safety improvements, including the developing of Food Safety Modernization Act and hazard analysis critical control point standards.
During the 2021 grant program, DEM awarded $250,000 of programming funding in LASA grants to 12 recipients. Eligible entities include for-profit farmers, fishers, producer groups, and non-profit organizations. Applicants must be based in Rhode Island and only small and/or beginning farmers, or producer groups of small or beginning farmers, are eligible to apply for capital grants. Aquaculture operators are considered farmers in the LASA program.
For more information on the LASA Grant program, please visit DEM’s website. Applications should be completed online via the State of Rhode Island Grant’s Management System by Nov. 30, 2022 at 11:59 PM. Grant-related questions should be directed to Ananda Fraser, Chief Program Development in DEM’s Division of Agriculture and Forest Environment at 401-222-2781 or via email to DEM.LASA@dem.ri.gov.
DEM continues to work across many fronts to benefit and strengthen Rhode Island’s green economy and to assist local farmers and fishers in growing their businesses. There are more than 1,000 farms sprinkled across the state and Rhode Island is home to a thriving young farmer network. DEM continues to make investments in critical infrastructure as well as provide farm incubation space to new farmers through its Urban Edge Farm and Snake Den Farm properties. The state’s food scene is often cited as an area of economic strength ripe for innovation and growth. Already, the local food industry supports 60,000 jobs, and the state’s green industries account for more than 15,000 jobs and contribute $2.5 billion to the economy annually.
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