A new state grant program will pump $3 million into funding innovation in Michigan's food and agriculture industry.
A joint venture between Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), the Strategic Growth Initiative Grant Program is designed to leverage business development and growth for the state's $91.4 billion food and agriculture industry. The grant program aims to remove barriers inhibiting growth in the state's food and agriculture industry, fostering economic opportunities for Michigan-based food processors, agribusiness and those involved in agricultural production.
"This is a major step forward for Michigan agriculture," explains Bob Boehm, manager of Michigan Farm Bureau's (MFB) commodity and marketing department. "What's happened is our agricultural production has grown so steadily that it's outpaced the processing side, meaning we're shipping a lot of raw farm commodities out of Michigan for processing.
"That means we're missing out on opportunities to keep that economic activity right here—more jobs, a healthier tax base and added momentum to fuel Michigan's economic recovery," Boehm adds. "That's what these grants are designed to help fund: the search for and development of new opportunities for growth right here in Michigan, as well as programs to help develop an adequate, well-trained workforce."
The initiative stems from Gov. Rick Snyder's 2011 summit on production agriculture, and recommendations from a legislative committee tasked with fostering growth in farm processing. At that time the governor announced his goal of seeing the sector's annual economic impact grow beyond the $100 billion mark.
To achieve that goal, more than 30 farm commodity organizations, processor groups and MFB collaborated in designing the Strategic Growth Initiative to maximize industry expansion, create jobs and explore new processing opportunities. MDARD and MEDC will coordinate and cooperate with universities and research organizations to bring the latest technology and information to improve Michigan's food and farm sector.
"With increased investment in our state's food and agriculture industry, we are fostering opportunities for job growth in high tech and innovative careers," says MDARD Director Jamie Clover Adams.
Grant applications will be evaluated through a competitive scoring process. Applicants will be asked to describe how their project potentially impacts and produces measurable outcomes for the food and agriculture industry and/or the public—rather than a single organization, institution or individual.
Applications must be received by 3 p.m. Oct. 2. For more information, including an program overview and sample scoring sheet, visit the MDARD website