WSDA awards $14 million in grants to small agribusinesses

For the Basin Business Journal | August 4, 2021 1:00 AM

OLYMPIA — The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has awarded more than $14 million in COVID-19 Relief and Recovery grants to 839 businesses affected by the pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic affected small agriculture businesses and local food supply chains in different ways, but WSDA identified four types of businesses that faced additional challenges qualifying for financial assistance through earlier relief programs.

The WSDA Relief and Recovery grants, funded through a partnership with the Washington State Department of Commerce, are intended to assist small businesses in these four agriculture business sectors, including shellfish growers, farmers market organizations, agritourism farms and craft beverage producers.

“These grants will boost the Washington state agricultural industry, helping prevent business closures and supporting the health and diversity of Washington state’s overall economy,” WSDA Director Derek Sandison said. “Our economy needs the businesses in these four sectors to recover from the pandemic for the health of our economy as a whole.”

Ninety percent of shellfish in Washington is consumed in restaurants, so when restaurants closed, Washington’s shellfish producers lost revenue. The grants will help these businesses purchase equipment, expand operations, keep staff employed, and pay rent.

Farmers markets generate an estimated $60 million in sales to small businesses each year, and faced restrictions during the COVID-19 shutdowns that led to reduced income from vendor fees, fewer shoppers, and the need to deploy resources toward ensuring public safety standards. Farmers market organizations will be able to use the assistance to help cover operating expenses, staffing, COVID-19 requirements and event promotion and educational activities.

Agritourism experiences are part of Washington farms and ranches business success. With the pandemic keeping people at home, visitor spending in Washington was down 47% in 2020. Destination farms can use their grant funds toward expanding activities and adapting their business to comply with guidelines and the costs associated with safety enhancements.

Pandemic restrictions forced Washington small craft beverage producers to close their doors, resulting in massive income loss. These grants will help producers pay their rent or mortgage, invest in materials, supplies and labor, while also working on keeping their staff employed.

The grants are being issued now with all businesses scheduled to receive their payments by mid-June, according to WSDA.