PORTSMOUTH, R.I. \u2014\u00a0The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) reminds local farm and food businesses that $270,000 in grant funding is available to support small businesses and increase the competitiveness of local products in the marketplace.\n\nThe funding is part of the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act (LASA) and Farm Viability grant programs \u2013 which, combined, have invested over $3 million to accelerate growth of Rhode Island's green economy.\n\n"These competitive grants will help farmers, fishers, and food businesses start or expand their operations in Rhode Island," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "Farming and fishing are increasingly vital to our economy and an important part of our heritage. With these investments, we're boosting our state's vibrant food economy and supporting Rhode Island-grown agricultural products and local seafood."\n\nLASA Grant Program\n\nUp to $20,000 awards are available through the LASA grant program to help spur growth of local agriculture, aquaculture, and seafood industries. Eligible entities include new and small farmers, fishers, food producers, and non-profits. Both program and capital projects are eligible for funding. Priority is given to initiatives that:\n\n1. support the entry, growth, and sustainability of small or beginning Rhode Island farmers, aquaculture producers, and fishers; 2. foster new collaborations or share new information among Rhode Island's food partners; 3. support new products or new sales channels for clearly defined markets; 4. enhance access to and availability of agricultural land for producers, including farm transition planning and implementation; or 5. address gap areas or implementation needs identified in Rhode Island's Food Strategy, Relish Rhody (www.relishrhody.com). Now in its sixth year, LASA helps new and existing small businesses and food initiatives prosper in Rhode Island. To date, LASA has provided over $1.1 million \u2013 through grants up to $20,000 \u2013 to support the growth of Rhode Island's local food economy. 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.\n\nUp to $120,000 is available for the 2019 grant round. For more information on the LASA program or to apply, visit DEM's website. Online applications are highly preferred and must be submitted by 11:59 PM on Friday, March 8. The application is available at https:\/\/www.surveymonkey.com\/r\/GDCZX6C or on the RI Food Policy Council website's LASA page at: http:\/\/rifoodcouncil.org\/lasa-grants-program\/.\n\nAdditional information, including instructions for completing the application, is available on DEM's website at http:\/\/www.dem.ri.gov\/programs\/agriculture\/documents\/lasaguidelines.pdf. Hand-delivered and mailed applications must be received by DEM's Division of Agriculture by 4 PM on March 8. Awards will be announced as part of Rhode Island's Ag Day celebration in the spring. Additional information also is available on the RI Food Policy website.\n\nFarm Viability Grant Program\n\nGrants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 are available through the Farm Viability Grant Program, made possible by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. These grants support local specialty crop production as well as efforts to grow the marketplace for these crops in Rhode Island. USDA defines specialty crops as fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, and nursery crops, including floriculture and turf grass.\n\nEligible entities include farmers or community groups engaged in research, marketing, food safety\/security, plant health, buy-local initiatives, and\/or development of cooperatives. Projects will be funded for up to two years. Funded projects must support the broad competitiveness of locally-grown specialty crops in Rhode Island. Initiatives that benefit a sole commercial product or provide a profit to a single individual or group will not be considered. A total of $150,000 is available for this grant round. To date, over $2 million has been invested through this program to support growth of specialty crops in Rhode Island. For more information on the Farm Viability program, visit DEM's website. Applications accompanied by a W9 form should be mailed to DEM Division of Agriculture, Room 370, 235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908 and postmarked no later than March 31, 2019.\n\nIn addition to these grant programs, DEM continues to work across many fronts to strengthen Rhode Island's green economy and assist local farmers in growing their businesses. Rhode Island is home to a thriving young farmer network, ranking second nationally in percent of farms owned by beginning farmers. And the state is one of few nationally where the number of farms is on the rise. There are more than 1,200 farms in Rhode Island \u2013 an increase of 44 percent from 2002. 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.\n\nLocal seafood is poised to spur the next wave of food-based economic growth. In partnership with the Seafood Marketing Collaborative, DEM developed the RI Seafood brand to uniquely identify Rhode Island seafood in the marketplace and help local fishermen and distributors grow their businesses. In 2016, more than 106 million pounds of seafood arrived at Rhode Island ports, with an export value over $1 billion. For more information on Rhode Island seafood, visit www.seafoodri.com.