The state of Michigan has approved a $15 million Michigan Agricultural Safety Grant Program to assist Michigan farms and agricultural processors in their efforts to mitigate risks of the COVID-19 virus among essential workers.
Funding for the grant program came through state legislative approval of Senate Bill 690, sponsored by Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland), calling for an appropriation of federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the package into law last week, noting the grants will provide much-needed funding to Michigan’s agricultural processors and farms in support of a critical industry in the state.
“Michigan’s food and agriculture sector has been especially hard hit by the COVID-19 virus, and this investment will provide critical resources to ensure the safety of the state’s food production industry and its workforce,” Whitmer said in a statement.
Michigan Farm Bureau President Carl Bednarski applauded the creation and funding of the grant program, saying it will help ensure the agriculture sector can continue to go above and beyond in adapting and responding to the changing food production environment.
“Michigan Farm Bureau was proud to support Senate Bill 690 to create the Michigan Agricultural Safety Grant Program to assist farms and agricultural processors in their efforts to protect their employees,” Bednarski said. “Our farmer-members were some of the first to proactively adopt new measures to keep their families and employees safe and strengthen existing safety standards.”
The Michigan Agricultural Safety Grants are divided between agricultural processors and farms:
Applicants must apply as either a processor or a farm — but not both — and funds will provide grants of up to $1,000 per employee to fund COVID-19 mitigation costs, including but not limited to testing costs, personal protection equipment, facility needs, increased sanitation costs, employee training, and upgraded safety procedures for farm-provided housing.
Employee testing and PPE continue to be a great need to protecting the agriculture workforce, both on-farm, and in the processing industry, according to Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Gary McDowell.
The program will cover costs incurred from June 1 through Sept. 15, 2020, with eligible applicants able to apply for funding beginning on July 15, 2020. Grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis until all funding has been awarded.
Grant applications will be processed by GreenStone Farm Credit Services which will also host the application portal, complete an initial screening of all applications and supporting documentation and recommend applications to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation for final approval and disbursements of the grants awarded.
GreenStone will also provide a report to the MEDC of all applications that were denied in the review process. The authorizing legislation for the program also requires reporting on Oct. 15, 2020, to the Legislature and State Budget Office on the Agricultural Safety Grant Program’s results, and that report will also be available on michiganbusiness.org/agsafety.
To qualify for grant support, applicants must be a farm or agricultural processor located in Michigan and meet the following requirements:
“We are continuing to leverage every resource available — whether federal, state or local — to ensure our small businesses across Michigan are able to receive the support they need to not only survive COVID-19 but be in a position to thrive and drive economic recovery moving forward,” said MEDC CEO Mark A. Burton.
“Working in partnership with MDARD and GreenStone, we are confident we can get this critical support into the hands our farms and agricultural processors quickly and effectively to keep our workers and our food supply safe,” he added.