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Grant program promotes farms, forestry

By Chelyen Davis

A new state grant program to help agricultural and forestry industries is now live.

Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Thursday that localities can start applying for grants through the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, which was created in the 2012 legislative session and has $1 million in funds budgeted for each of the next two years.

The grant money can be awarded in two categories—$750,000 for large grants to localities that are trying to expand or attract agriculture and forestry processing facilities, and $250,000 for smaller grants to help localities improve their agribusiness economic development efforts.

McDonnell’s announcement Thursday focuses on the larger grants. Those grants would be available to local governments as matching funds, and a minimum 30 percent of the facility’s agriculture or forestry products must be grown or made in Virginia. The state will take into account the projected tax revenue of a project, the capital invested and the number of jobs created.

In a release about the grants, McDonnell said the AFID fund was created because agriculture and forestry industries often didn’t meet criteria for Virginia’s other business incentive programs.

This program, he said, “clearly recognizes the sometimes unique aspects of agriculture and forestry projects. We hope this program will encourage local governments to work closely with these important industries to create new jobs and increased economic opportunity in communities throughout the commonwealth.”

In the release, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling said he thought the grants would help rural areas.

“Agriculture and forestry typically are significant economic drivers in rural Virginia, so new investments in these industries will help to build on these region’s existing strengths,” Bolling said.

Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028