State grant program to support agricultural worker safety
The state will open up applications for the Michigan Agricultural Safety Grant Program next week. They’re meant to promote worker safety through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program will provide $15 million in total: $10 million to food processors, and another $5 million to farms. The money can be used for things like personal protective equipment, employee testing for COVID-19, safety upgrades for farm-provided housing, or facility improvements, like installing plexi-glass barriers.
Farms and food processing plants have been the frequent site of COVID-19 outbreaks throughout Michigan and the nation. Food production workers are considered "essential."
Amanda Bright McLanahan is chief operating officer of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which will ultimately disburse the funds. Applications will be vetted and recommended by GreenStone Farm Credit Services.
Bright McLanahan said the safety of our food supply is paramount, and these grants are meant to “to help Michigan farmers and Michigan agricultural processors protect their employees, and also protect Michigan’s food production industry.”
Rebecca Park, state legislative counsel for the Michigan Farm Bureau, said that after the program wraps up, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will report to the state Legislature on where exactly the money went: “How many applied for the grants, how far did the grant dollars spread, how many applications did they have to decline not because they weren’t valid, but because there just wasn’t enough money left?”
“We have seen a very high need [for this sort of program] demonstrated,” added Bright McLanahan. “So I think we will use this program to try and understand whether the needs are being met.”
The grant money comes from the federal government’s coronavirus relief package, the CARES Act. GreenStone will begin accepting applications July 15.