The Working Lands Enterprise Board announced the release of available grant funds to invest $986,500 into agricultural, forestry and forest product enterprises and organizations. The announcement took place during the luncheon of the "Financing the Working Landscape Conference," organized by Addison County Relocalization Network (ACORN), the Addison County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC) and the Addison County Regional Planning Commission (ACRPC).
"Vermont's working landscape captures Vermont's heritage, its culture, and its people," according to the board chairman, Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross. "It provides tens of thousands of jobs and contributes greater than 15 percent to Vermont's gross domestic product. Today's announcement represents the state of Vermont's investment in preserving and enhancing Vermont's working lands."
The 2012 legislative session brought with it a renewed commitment to Vermonters' values by passing the Working Lands Enterprise initiative for the management and investment of $1 million into agricultural and forestry-based businesses. Over 97 percent of Vermonters value the working landscape. Approximately 20 percent of Vermont's land is used for agricultural purposes, and 75 percent for forestry. The backbone of Vermont's "working landscape" is the economic viability of the agriculture and forestry-based businesses. It is Vermont's working landscape that allows it to be a key economic engine within the northeast metropolitan markets of the regional food system. Commissioner of the Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, Michael Snyder, comments on the importance of the partnership, saying "This is a historical moment, placing agriculture and forestry on the same investment platform."
The Working Lands Enterprise initiative, Act 142, (http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/2012/Acts/ACT142.pdf) created the Working Lands Enterprise Fund (WLEF) and the Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB). The WLEB includes private-sector representatives from agriculture and forestry; state government, including the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, and the Vermont Agency of Commerce & Community Development; and ex officio members from the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, the Vermont Economic Development Authority, and the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.
The following are the three investment areas of the Working Lands Enterprise Fund:
1. Agriculture and Forestry & Forest Products: Enterprise Investments:
$3,000 - $15,000 grants. Applications due no later than 5 p.m., January 24, 2013. (Postmarked by January 24 for mailed proposals.)
2. Agriculture and Forestry & Forest Products: Working Lands Service Provider Grants:
$10,000 - $100,000 grants. Letter of intent due no later than 5 p.m., January 4, 2013. Applications due no later than 5 p.m., February 15, 2013.
3. Agriculture and Forestry & Forest Products: Capital and Infrastructure Investments:
$15,000 - $100,000 grants. Letter of intent due no later than 5 p.m., January 4, 2013. Applications due no later than 5 p.m., March 8, 2013.
Secretary of Commerce & Community Development Lawrence Miller says, "The working landscape is the foundation of several of our most important economic sectors: fundamental to agriculture, forest products, stone and minerals, and renewable energy, but also critical for our tourism economy. Interacting with the land in work and recreation is also a fundamental part of our culture. The WLEF is an important tool for ensuring that we are able to make the transitions and diversification necessary to secure the working landscape for future generations."
To access the request for proposals and the Working Lands Initiative home page, visit VermontWorkingLands.com