336 Farms and Food Processors Awarded $15 Million in Michigan Agricultural Safety Grants to Protect Employees, Food Industry

Governor's Office

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

• More than 26,000 jobs retained statewide • 124 small farms receive $567,000 in MEDC Small Farm Safety Grants • Farms and food processors in 55 of 83 counties received grants • Funds used to cover testing costs, personal protection equipment, facility needs and more to help mitigate risks of COVID-19

LANSING, Mich. – A total of 177 farms and 159 food processors have been awarded $15 million in Michigan Agricultural Safety Grants to mitigate risks of the COVID-19 virus across the state’s food production industry, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) announced today. Additionally, 124 small farms of less than 10 employees received $567,000 in grants for COVID-19 risk mitigation through the MEDC Small Farm Safety Grants.

“Michigan's food and agriculture sector has been particularly hard hit by COVID-19, and through the Michigan Agricultural Safety Grant program we were able to provide some relief to our farmers and food processors across the state while ensuring the safety of our agricultural workforce and food production,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “This program puts federal funding to work for Michigan’s farms and builds on additional COVID-19 relief efforts led by MEDC and MDARD to create a strong foundation for Michigan’s long-term economic recovery.”

Approved in July, the Michigan Agricultural Safety Grant program allocated $15 million of federal CARES Act funding to provide much-needed funding to Michigan’s agricultural processors and farms' COVID-19 mitigation efforts in support of this critical industry in the state. Awarded on a first come, first serve basis the Michigan Agricultural Safety Grants helped to retain 26,003 jobs with 26 percent of grants being awarded in geographically disadvantaged areas. Total Agricultural Safety Grants were divided between agricultural processors and farms with 10 or more employees as follows:

  • $10 million in grants to 159 processors statewide.
  • $5 million in grants to 177 farms statewide.

“When Michigan was hit with one crisis after another, and when there were some troubling trends in food and agriculture nationally, we worked to ensure that Michigan’s food supply chain was safe and secure,” said MDARD Director Gary McDowell. “And we all understood this could not be done if our essential workers became ill or felt unsafe in the workplace. We’re incredibly thankful for the work of Governor Whitmer and our partners at MEDC and GreenStone not only for executing this program, but also for doing it quickly when Michigan businesses and residents needed it the most.”

As a result of high demand for the Michigan Agricultural Safety Grant program, and a clear need to help small farms mitigate risks of the COVID-19 virus in their operation, MEDC launched the MEDC Small Farm Safety Grant program on July 21, 2020. MEDC Small Farm Safety Grants were available to farms with less than 10 employees to fund COVID-19 mitigation costs.

A full list of awardees for both programs is available at michiganbusiness.org/agsafety.

Applications for both programs were processed by East Lansing-based GreenStone Farm Credit Services, one of America’s largest rural lenders, including 31 branches in Michigan. GreenStone has a 100-year track record providing financial services to the agricultural industry – including short, intermediate and long-term loans, equipment and building leases, life insurance, crop insurance, accounting and tax services. GreenStone completed initial screenings of all applications and supporting documentation and recommended applications to MEDC for final approval and disbursements of the grants awarded.

King Orchards in Central Lake was awarded a Michigan Agricultural Safety Grant utilized for PPE, sanitation supplies, quarantine housing and the implementation of COVID-19 testing for all workers.

“We are very grateful for the timely actions by the MEDC to make the Michigan Agricultural Safety Grant available to farmers,” said Juliette King McAvoy, Food Safety Manager at King Orchards. “The application process was simple and funds were disbursed within 72 hours. The grant provided us with the support we needed to protect our workers and customers while simultaneously reducing the risk of detrimental disruptions to our operations and distribution of produce.”

According to MDARD, food and agriculture contributes $104.7 billion annually to Michigan’s economy, and represents 805,000 jobs statewide. Additionally, Michigan exports approximately $1.8 billion of food and agriculture products each year.

“This grant has been a big blessing to help offset the other expenses and losses we have experienced this year because of COVID-19,” said Catherine Genovese, owner of Candy Cane Christmas Tree Farm who received an MEDC Small Farm Safety Grant. “It will ensure that we have necessary PPE going into our busiest season, including masks, wipes and plexiglass screens to ensure the safety of both our employees and our clients.”

The authorizing legislation for the Michigan Agricultural Safety Grant program also requires reporting on the program’s results by October 15, 2020 to the Legislature and State Budget Office. That report will be available on michiganbusiness.org/agsafety.

“Working in partnership with MDARD and GreenStone, we were able get this critical support into the hands of our farms and agricultural processors quickly and effectively to keep our workers and our food supply safe,” said Mark A. Burton, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “The Michigan Agricultural Safety Grant program built on our efforts to ensure COVID-19 relief was felt by businesses and workers statewide and that we were setting a strong foundation for economic recovery looking forward.”

To learn more about MEDC’s COVID-19 response programs and the impact they are having on economic recovery efforts, visit michiganbusiness.org/covid19response. Other resources for economic reopening efforts as well as businesses across Michigan struggling with economic losses as a result of the COVID-19 virus can be found online at michiganbusiness.org/covid19.

About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy. For more information on the MEDC and our initiatives, visit www.MichiganBusiness.org. For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at www.michigan.org. Join the conversation on: Facebook Instagram LinkedIn, and Twitter.