Mills Administration Announces $18 Million in CARES Act Relief Grants Awarded to 609 Farms, Food Processors and Producers, Food Banks and Pantries
January 19, 2021
For more information contact: Jim Britt at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: The total number of grant recipients is 609.
The funds were awarded through three CARES Act Relief Grant Programs: the CARES Act Agriculture and Food Processing Infrastructure Reimbursement Program, the CARES Act E-Commerce Reimbursement Program, and the CARES Act Food Security Network Reimbursement Program.
"At the outset of the pandemic and as more people sought Maine-grown, -raised, and -made products, our farms, food processors, and food suppliers adapted to create safe environments for both employees and customers," said Governor Mills. "I am grateful for the ways our agricultural community has responded during the pandemic to serve the people of Maine and my administration will continue to deploy every available resource to ensure their success in these challenging times."
"As markets were disrupted and food insecurity grew significantly over the past year, many businesses and nonprofits in the food sector pivoted their production and distribution models to continue operations and keep employees, volunteers, and customers safe," said DACF Commissioner Amanda Beal. "Our ability to offer reimbursements for some unanticipated expenses enhances their stability and allows them to stay focused on the important work that they do."
"We were honored to partner with DACF to stand up these CARES ACT grant programs," said Gray Harris, Senior Vice President, Food Systems, CEI. "It was an opportunity to serve Maine's agriculture and food sector that we could not pass up. The impact is profound and will be long-lasting-$17.3 million is now circulating in the Maine farm and food economy, in the communities where Maine's farmers and food producers live and work. It's been extremely satisfying to be a part of this collaborative, rapid response team."
"Catholic Charities Maine was proud to be able to respond quickly and assist the State of Maine with the distribution of critical funds at a time when more people than ever before are experiencing hunger and food insecurity in our state," said Steve Letourneau, CEO, Catholic Charities Maine. We processed and ultimately awarded 89 grants to food pantries, food banks and other groups involved with the distribution of food to those in need. I have no doubt that this program had a positive impact on thousands of lives."
CARES Act Agriculture and Food Processing Infrastructure Reimbursement Program
Created in collaboration with the Maine Economic and Community Development Department (DECD) and administered by Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), the Agriculture and Food Processing Infrastructure Reimbursement Program awarded $17.3 million in grants to 437 farms, processors, and other food supply chain businesses for COVID-19 related infrastructure investments, spanning major processing upgrades to obtaining necessary PPE. The Program was initially announced as providing $10 million in CRF. However, given high application demand, additional funds were made available to fulfill all eligible applications.
"When we harvest, we need people to inspect our potatoes before they go into storage. We invested in equipment, primarily conveyors, to create the space needed for our employees to work safely and stay healthy," said Dan Blackstone, Owner, Blackstone Seed Growers LLC (Caribou)
"The reimbursement we received from the state was tremendously helpful in keeping our operations running smoothly, and helping our employees stay connected while still staying safe. We invested in an onsite Liquid Nitrogen tank as an alternative to liquid Co2. This has enabled us to have more assurance that we will not have disruptions to our production process due to Co2 shortages during the pandemic. In addition, we invested in headsets for our production team to enable effective distancing, while still allowing communication. We also purchased additional laptops/hardware to support remote working, as many of our employees have been working from home since March," said Craig Frey, Director of Finance, Allagash Brewing Company (Portland)
"This grant saved our business essentially; we lost 80% of our foodservice market as soon as the state of emergency took effect. We went back to the drawing board and invested in slicing and packing equipment to access the retail sales channel. We also invested in becoming a licensed co-packer for the small producers who needed to find ways to get their products to market," said Oliver Perkins, Owner, A Small Good (Rockport)
"The demand for local beef and pork meant we needed to invest in more freezer space, and we needed to upgrade our power supply. Our business is up 60% over 2019. We also increased the size of our retail store and purchased the PPE our staff needed to stay safe," said Barry Higgins, Owner, Maple Lane Farms (Charleston)
"We are still in the process of adjusting, but this grant has solved financial worries for us so that we can focus on our business," said Seth Kroeke, Owner, Crystal Spring Farm (Brunswick)
CARES Act E-Commerce Reimbursement Program
The E-commerce Reimbursement Program, also administered by CEI, awarded $247,000 to 84 farmers for unplanned e-commerce investments, including online sales management and payment processing platforms, order processing and fulfillment software, and website customization.
"When it was clear we needed to find a way to reach a bigger audience of customers, we invested in our website. We added new photos and implemented software to improve our ability to manage pre-orders. Our farmers' market transactions went contactless. We added ecards for our CSA customers. We hired people to help us find the right platforms, take photos, do the writing, and more. All of this was done to create more awareness, share our story, and help people buy our food safely," said Jan Goranson, Owner, Goranson Farm (Dresden)
"Curbside and pre-ordering are here to stay. Before the pandemic, we were contemplating ways to improve our website, but we knew we had to set up online ordering when it hit. We invested in creating databases necessary to display our products online and added a wish-list tool for our customers. This investment has gotten us a lot closer to a more sophisticated POS system with real-time inventory," said Wendy Reinemann, Owner, Guini Ridge Farm (Rockport)
"Before the pandemic, we planned to launch our value-added products at grocery store chains and independentbrick and mortar stores in the summer of 2020. Then, everything changed for everyone in March. After a lot of deliberation, we decided we needed to pivot again and focus our efforts online. We moved our website to a platform that was better for goods. We hired a website designer who helped streamline our website to create an easy and efficient shopping experience, and we added apps to the site to increase sales, such as subscription options and email drip campaigns," said Holly Arbuckle, Owner, Singing Pastures (Newcastle)
CARES Act Food Security Network Reimbursement Program
The Food Security Network Reimbursement Program, administered by Catholic Charities of Maine, provided $621,000 in grants to 88 food banks and pantries for unanticipated expenses associated with overcoming food supply and distribution challenges caused by COVID-19.
"Our reimbursement is for the purchases we made of culturally appropriate foods to support new Mainers. Items like fufupowder, cassava leaves and dried fish and other food items not readily available through TEFAP," said Mary Zwolinski, Executive Director, Wayside Food Programs (Portland)
"The Food Security Network Reimbursement Program is a great fit for us for several reasons, but mostly because it allowed us to what we do. Our reimbursement is for the PPE investment required in December to continue our staff's food preparation and distribution to clients across Aroostook County," said Sherry Locke, Development and Communications Manager, Aroostook County Action Program (Presque Isle)
DACF's third-party administrative partners are currently focused on processing payments associated with the three programs. All CRF grant funds are expected to be distributed by the end of the first quarter of 2021.
Visit the Bureau of Agriculture's website for complete COVID-19 resources available to agriculture and food businesses.
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