The Vermont Community Foundation and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture announced that the Vermont Farm Disaster Relief Fund is accepting applications for its fourth grant round. In its first three rounds, the fund awarded 122 farmers affected by Tropical Storm Irene grants in excess of $600,000. As of November 21, total contributions received or pledged to the fund exceeded $2.0 million. The grant committee announced that applications will be accepted for the fund’s fourth grant round until December 2, 2011. Grant checks will be distributed to selected farmers by the end of the year. Applications are available online at www.vtfloodresponse.org.
“We’re aware that many farmers are still in the process of putting their lives back together and are just now tallying their losses - we continue to encourage them to apply as soon as they are able to do so,” says Chuck Ross, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. “We will be working closely with the Community Foundation and with all our partners to ensure that grants reach as many of the farmers impacted by the storm as possible.”
The grant committee will also revisit applications from farmers who have already received funding, in order to assess remaining need and consider awarding additional grant money. Each farmer who has received a grant from the fund will be mailed a letter and form requesting an update on total losses from the storm and the support they have received to help address those losses.
“Many farmers have a more complete picture of overall losses now than they did two months ago – in fact, many of the needs that farmers will be facing over the coming months have not yet surfaced,” says Ryan Torres, philanthropic advisor at the Vermont Community Foundation. “That’s why part of our grantmaking strategy is to assess the needs of farmers in stages, to help maximize the availability of funds and ensure that farmers have the resources they need to be successful well into the future.”
“We are incredibly grateful for the enormous outpouring of support to the fund, both locally and from outside Vermont,” says Stuart Comstock-Gay, president & CEO of the Vermont Community Foundation. “Because of the generosity of everyone who has donated to the fund, we are able to give out more grants in this fourth round and to potentially increase the awards to those farmers who have been hit the hardest.”
The grant committee includes representatives from the Vermont Community Foundation, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, NOFA Vermont, Vermont Farm Bureau, Rural Vermont, Rutland Area Farm and Food Link, and University of Vermont Extension. Grant decisions are based on a number of factors, including total losses and overall need.
The grants will help farmers replace infrastructure, seed, feed, livestock, supplies, and equipment lost as a result of the storm, to the extent the losses were not covered by insurance or other sources of income. The grants can also be used to help pay outstanding bills such as farm mortgage costs, land lease payments, or animal feed bills.
According to the Agency of Agriculture, a rough estimate of farmland impacted by Irene exceeds 20,000 acres; a conservative estimate of crop losses and crop land damage needing repair exceeds $10 million dollars. A total of 463 Vermont farms have reported damage to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Those interested in learning more about the fund or making a contribution can visit www.vtfloodresponse.org.