For Immediate Release - May 26, 2011

State Agricultural Officials Announce Open Application Period for Grant Programs

Grant deadlines are June 23 and 30

BOSTON - May 26, 2011 --As part of the Patrick-Murray Administration's ongoing efforts to promote Massachusetts agriculture, Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) Commissioner Scott Soares today announced an open application period for five grant programs totaling nearly $3 million to support agricultural stewardship of natural resources, promote energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy on farms, and ensure economic competitiveness and profitability. The grants promote the long-term viability of Massachusetts agriculture, which generates over $500 million annually.

"This suite of funding programs provides assistance to farms to keep them economically competitive and profitable, helps improve their stewardship of the land and use of natural resources, and protects agricultural jobs," said Commissioner Soares.

Farm Viability Enhancement Program

This business planning and technical assistance program provides management advice and grants from $25,000 to $75,000 to implement farm growth and sustainability strategies. Farm operators also receive consultation to discuss farm production, management, marketing, and business planning.

Program information and applications can be found by clicking here or by calling the Farm Viability Program at 617-626-1723. The deadline for submitting applications is Thursday, June 23, 2011.

APR Improvement Program

The APR Improvement Program was designed to help sustain active commercial farming on land protected by the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program. The program assists with issues of economic viability, environmental sustainability, resource conservation, ownership control, modernization of infrastructure and other issues that may enhance the long term continued use of agricultural land.

The APR program preserves and protects agricultural land from being built upon for non-agricultural purposes or used for any activity detrimental to agriculture. The APR program has permanently protected almost 800 farms and a total land area of over 66,000 acres.

Applicants must own, or co-apply with the owner of, APR land that they have been actively farming for at least the last three years. The current Request for Response (RFR) with application is available by calling the APR Improvement Program at 413-268-8269. The deadline for submitting applications is Thursday, June 23, 2011.

Matching Enterprise Grants for Agriculture

The purpose of the Matching Enterprise Grants for Agriculture (MEGA) Program is to help with business expansion on new and beginning farms. MEGA will provide technical assistance and business planning help, and provide funds to aspiring commercial farmers. Priority will be given to farm enterprises that have operated commercially for one to five years and have a potential to expand productivity or commercial significance with the infusion of additional technical support and capital.

MEGA applications and program information are available by clicking here or by calling 413-559-0949. The deadline for submitting applications is Thursday, June 23, 2011.

Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program

The Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program's (AEEP) purpose is to support the mitigation and/or prevention of negative impacts to the state's natural resources that may result from agricultural practices by providing reimbursement directly to agricultural operations that implement eligible projects that prevent, reduce or eliminate environmental impacts for the benefit of the public.

AEEP funds the acquisition of materials only, not labor costs or equipment rental. Grants support practices that prevent direct impacts on water and air quality. (Projects primarily focused on renewable energy or energy conservation should apply to the Massachusetts Ag-Energy Grant Program - see below.)

Information regarding the AEEP grant applications is available on DAR's website. The deadline for submitting applications is Thursday, June 30, 2011.

Ag-Energy Grant

Ag-Energy Grants assist agricultural operations in an effort to improve energy efficiency and to facilitate adoption of alternative clean energy technologies. DAR is offering grants for both the AEEP and Ag-Energy Program during the same timeframe. Projects focusing on water conservation and improving air and water quality should apply to AEEP, while energy efficiency and renewable energy projects should apply for the Ag-Energy grant. Applicants cannot apply to and receive funding from both AEEP and Ag-Energy for the same project.

Program information and application can be found by clicking here. The deadline for submitting applications is Thursday, June 30, 2011. For more information, contact Gerard Kennedy at 617.626.1773 or Gerard.Kennedy@state.ma.us.

DAR logo DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions - Agricultural Development, Animal Health, Crop and Pest Services, and Technical Assistance - the DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the Commonwealth's agricultural community, working to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture's role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr , and/or follow at twitter.com/MDARCommish.