Delaware Announces Funding to Improve Access to Delaware Grown Food

$2M in seed funding to stabilize and strengthen family farms and local food supply chain operations

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney, the Delaware Department of Agriculture, and the Delaware Council on Farm and Food Policy on Thursday announced a $2 million investment in seed funding to establish the First State Integrated Food System Program. This new program, which will be developed by the Delaware Council on Farm and Food Policy, will help stabilize and strengthen Delaware’s small and mid-sized farmers and local food supply chain operations, among the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic.

The funding for this program is provided through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which was signed into law by President Joe Biden and championed by members of Delaware’s congressional delegation – U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester.

The First State Integrated Food System will provide a coordinated approach to improving local access to affordable and nutritious, Delaware-produced foods while supporting Delaware farmers,” said Governor Carney. “We know the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted small-scale food businesses and Delaware families’ access to food. That’s why the Council on Farm and Food Policy will work with partners to develop and administer a diverse portfolio of grants and loans to improve the availability and accessibility of local produce, animal protein, value-added products, and other foods, promoting overall economic growth here in Delaware.”

“The rise of food insecurity in Delaware is just one example of how the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing issues in our communities,” said Delaware’s Congressional Delegation of U.S. Senators Tom Carper, Chris Coons and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester. “This new program will be made possible through federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, which we voted to pass in March of this year, and will bring resources and support to Delaware’s farmers, suppliers, and distributors. We commend Governor Carney’s decision to prioritize the availability and accessibility of Delaware grown food through the creation of this innovative program. We look forward to working with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to continue to fight for assistance for Delaware’s farms and supply chain operations.”

The First State Integrated Food System Program focuses on three main channels in the food supply chain, including:

  • Production: small and mid-size farmers;
  • Processing and distribution: commercial kitchens, processing facilities, storage/hub facilities, incubators;
  • Retail/consumer outlets: convenience stores, groceries/markets, restaurants, farmers’ markets, food trucks, food kiosks, and mobile markets.

“This program prioritizes our food system and provides an opportunity for the State to make a strategic investment in how families access food in their communities and at the same time improve the resilience of the local food supply chain,” said Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “Neighboring states, like Maryland and New Jersey, have reaped the benefits of food financing programs. The First State Integrated Food System Program will make similar opportunities available to bolster Delaware’s capacity. These efforts will go a long way in improving local access to local food.”

The Council provides a lens into various aspects of Delaware’s food system, supply chain, and food security. The Council strives to facilitate and support a food system where:

  • Local farmers can access viable markets;
  • All Delawareans can access resources needed to circumvent challenges associated with securing nutritious and local food options; and
  • Where vulnerabilities within our communities can be diminished.

“The Council’s past efforts have laid the groundwork to provide coordination and strategy around long-term resiliency planning,” said Nikko BradyDelaware Council on Farm and Food Policy Executive Committee member. “The development of the First State Integrated Food System Program is one more way for us to help connect Delaware farmers to processors and retail outlets to get food on to the tables of Delawareans.”

Each member of the Council draws on daily experiences as part of their respective organizations and contributes knowledge and expertise to conversations about food access, food policy, and nutrition in Delaware. The Council’s primary function is to offer knowledge, information, and strategy around food that helps coordinate and improve the capacities of state agencies, public officials, community members, and organizations.

All ARPA funds related to this program will be dispersed by December 2024. For more information regarding the Delaware Council on Farm and Food Policy or the First State Integrated Food System Program, contact Nikko Brady at the Delaware Department of Agriculture, nikko.brady@delaware.gov.

Visit de.gov/rescueplan to learn more about how the American Rescue Plan (ARPA) is helping in Delaware.

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Delaware Has Preserved 143,000 Acres of Farmland After 25th Round

Round 25 Easement Selection MapDOVER, Del. (July 21, 2021) — Delaware announced its 25th consecutive round of easement selections by the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation. With the preservation of 3,695 acres, Delaware has permanently preserved more than 143,000 acres of farmland for future generations.

“Delaware’s Aglands Preservation Program has been critical to keeping our farms in production,” said Governor Carney. “We can all agree through the pandemic we learned how important family farmers are to ensuring food including fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and meat are readily available. Preserving farmland is not just about passing a farm down to the next generation. It’s about making sure future generations have food grown locally available to feed their families.”

In this round of easement selections, there were 23 farms in Kent County and 22 farms in Sussex County preserved. The Delaware Aglands Preservation Program has successfully preserved nearly 27 percent of Delaware’s farmland.

“We take pride in having one of the country’s most effective farmland protection programs. With today’s announcement, 3,695 acres have been permanently preserved, including 45 farms through the AgLands Preservation Program and four forested parcels through the Forestland Preservation Program,” said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “There are a lot of partners who play a role in Delaware’s success preserving farmland, from the county level up to federal agencies by providing matching funds.”

“Each easement that is placed on productive agricultural land protects the long-term viability of our food supply by preventing conversion to non-agricultural uses,” said Kasey Taylor, Delaware State Conservationist, Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS). “Coupled with conservation activities, land preservation is vital to improving soil and water quality and enhancing wildlife habitat. NRCS is honored to contribute to this tremendous effort.”

Since the beginning of the program, landowners have donated, on average, 59 percent of their development rights value – that is, they received 41 cents on the dollar of their farm’s development rights value to preserve their farm. The average discount (donation) for Round 25 is 53.57 percent.

The Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation selects those farms approved for easement purchase using an impartial discounted ranking system that maximizes benefits for taxpayers. The Foundation does not own the land but instead purchases landowners’ development rights and places a permanent agricultural conservation easement on the property. Landowners must first voluntarily enroll their farm into a 10-year preservation district before they can sell an easement. In addition to more than 143,000 acres in permanent easements, Delaware’s Aglands Preservation Program has over 41,000 acres of land enrolled in farmland preservation districts.

County governments can choose to partner with the state program and add county funds to select properties in their areas, leveraging state resources for a more significant impact.

Delaware’s statewide program made its first round of easement purchases in 1996 and has since preserved 22 percent of New Castle County farmland, 39 percent of Kent County farmland, and 19 percent of Sussex County farmland.

Kent County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange said, “Levy Court is pleased to once again provide financial assistance toward the preservation of an additional 1,082 acres of valuable farmland in Kent County as part of the Delaware Aglands Preservation Program in Round 25. It’s important for us to preserve and protect agriculture in Kent County since it’s so vital to our local economy, our food supply, and the rural character of our working lands in Central Delaware.”

“Sussex County Council has made it a priority to support the Delaware Aglands Program by providing significant funding to ensure working farms are preserved,” Sussex County Administrator Todd F. Lawson said. “Ag continues to face tremendous pressure in the 21st century, and it is imperative that we take necessary steps — like purchasing these easements — to ensure this vital industry remains productive in our State and our County.”

The Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation Easements are available for viewing through an online dashboard at https://de.gov/agdashboard.

Landowners interested in preserving their farm can contact the Aglands Preservation Program at 302-698-4530 or find information and application forms at agriculture.delaware.gov. The Aglands Preservation Program received $10 million in the state budget on July 1 for selecting easements in Round 26, expected to be announced in late Spring 2022.

The Foundation’s Board of Trustees includes representatives from agriculture and state agencies. Trustees are Mark Collins, chairman; James G. Vanderwende, vice-chairman; Janice Truitt, treasurer; William H. “Chip” Narvel Jr., secretary; Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse; State Treasurer Colleen C. Davis; Secretary of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Shawn Garvin; Peter Martin; Theodore P. Bobola Jr.; Robert Emerson; and H. Grier Stayton.

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Delaware Announces Grant Program for Contract Poultry Growers Impacted by COVID-19

Grant applications available until December 1, 2020

HURLOCK, Md. – Governor John Carney, along with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, announced a new grant program to assist contract poultry growers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The poultry industry on Delmarva is second to none and it’s because of the long-standing working relationships that we have across state lines, especially when it comes to supporting our family farms,” said Governor Carney. “COVID-19 has impacted all of us, but for the poultry growers who take pride in putting safe, nutritious food on your table, many of the roadblocks that COVID-19 threw at them were out of their control. This grant program is an opportunity once again for both our states to show our support for our family farms.”

“I am pleased to announce that we are immediately launching a new relief program which will provide direct payments to thousands of Maryland farmers, growers, and producers who have been hurt by COVID-19,” said Governor Hogan. “Far too often our farmers don’t get the respect or the appreciation they deserve, but I want our entire ag community to know that your commitment to our state and to our ag industry does not go unnoticed.”

Growers are paid on their performance in raising the chickens on contract for our integrated poultry companies, but the actual ownership of the birds remains with the companies. Unfortunately, due to this technicality our poultry growers are not eligible for USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistant Program funds. 

The Delaware Department of Agriculture is administering the program and will be accepting applications until December 1, 2020.

“Because of the disruption of markets, labor availability for the companies to run at full capacity in the processing plants, and other COVID-19 related impacts, Delaware growers were faced with longer than normal layout times and saw a decrease in the number of birds placed,” said Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “In some cases, farms were required to depopulate birds because a company did not have the ability to process the birds. All of these factors created significant reductions in grower pay and hardships for our family farms that are vital to our economy.” 

The Delaware Contract Poultry Grower Grant Assistant Program will compensate contract poultry growers who:

  • had an active grower contract in force on facilities located in Delaware on March 15 when COVID-19 impacted our state;
  • have an approved CAFO permit or have filed a Notice of Intent for CAFO coverage; and
  • do not have business interruption coverage for the losses covered by the grant program. 

For poultry growers who meet these requirements, the grant program will compensate:

  • $1,000 per poultry house, up to a maximum payment of $5,000 per farm. 
  •  In addition, any grower that meets the above criteria, and had to depopulate birds remaining in-house for composting related to COVID-19 will receive another $1,500 per poultry house depopulated without cap. 

Applications for the Delaware Contract Poultry Grower Grant Assistant Program are available online at agriculture.delaware.gov/grants-loans and will be accepted by the Delaware Department of Agriculture until December 1. Applicants must complete a W-9 form online (esupplier.erp.delaware.gov) prior to receiving payment.

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Delaware Farmers’ Markets To Open Under New COVID-19 Protocols

DOVER, Del. – With the assistance of the Delaware Farmers’ Market Coalition, a group of market managers from across the state, the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) is issuing protocols to help farmers’ markets safely begin opening starting May 15.

“We want to make sure that opening the farmers’ markets in Delaware is done in a way that maximizes the safety of market staff, family farmers, and the customers who are looking to purchase produce, specialty crops, and other value-added food items,” said Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “We know a lot more about COVID-19 now and the steps we all need to take to prevent the spread of this disease. Farmers’ markets will not be the same social experience as they were prior to COVID-19, but we hope that Delawareans will utilize the markets as a place to purchase locally produced food.”

The protocols issued by DDA will be in place until further notice and are solely intended to allow farmers to sell produce, specialty crops, and other value-added food items that have been directly grown or raised on a farm or prepared in a permitted on-farm kitchen or cottage-food kitchen. Individual farmers’ markets may choose to implement more specific and stringent protocols, but they must at a minimum follow the issued protocols in order to operate and remain open.

“There is nothing better than heading to a farmers’ market in the spring as Delaware grown produce starts to become available. There is a sense of community pride around farmers’ markets that includes supporting our local economy and our family farms,” said Governor John Carney. “With the help of the farmers’ market managers and the staff at the Department of Agriculture and the Delaware Division of Public Health, we are able to allow farmers’ markets to begin opening on May 15 as long as they are able to enact the protocols issued by the Department of Agriculture.”

To create a safer environment for all involved in farmers’ markets, they will no longer be considered a social venue. This means there will be no social gatherings, no entertainment shows or activities, no food trucks or prepared food for consumption on site, no on-site food preparation or sampling, no demonstrations, and no pets allowed, except for service animals.

Depending on the farmers’ market, they may operate a walk-through market or a drive-through market. All customers will be required to wear face coverings, or they will be denied entrance. A maximum of two people per household will be allowed to enter the market to shop. Upon arrival, customers will check in at the entrance with market staff. If the market is at capacity, the customer will be given instructions on how they will be notified when they can go into shop.

Progress through the farmers’ market will only be in one direction. All market attendees will be required to enter through a specific entrance and will all leave out a designated exit, there will be no doubling back to shop at a vendor. Market staff, vendors, and customers will need to social distance, maintaining six feet distance from all others while inside the market area. In order to reduce shopping time, vendors will not have their product available where people can touch or handle product. Customers will need to request items that they want to purchase, and the farmer will package for purchase.

If you are sick with any of the following symptoms, stay home: fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, muscle fatigue, chills, shaking with chills, loss of smell or taste. Other symptoms such as headache or digestive symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain or lack of appetite) are potential symptoms related to COVID-19 and may prompt further screening, action or investigation.

If you believe you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or have symptoms of illness, you may not go out in public. Older adults and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions – including serious heart conditions, chronic lung conditions, including moderate to severe asthma, severe obesity and those who are immunocompromised, including through cancer treatment – may have a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. We want to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 within our farmers’ market community, so if you are sick or have been exposed or are at higher risk for severe illness – stay home, do not go to the farmers’ market.

More information regarding the protocols for opening Delaware farmers’ markets can be found at https://de.gov/buylocal.

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Delaware Farmers’ Markets Continue to Grow in Popularity

Governor Carney declares Delaware Agriculture Week January 13 through January 17, 2020

DOVER, Del. – Governor John Carney and the Delaware Department of Agriculture on Thursday announced Delaware farmers’ markets hit an all-time high sales record of $3.28 million in 2019. The announcement comes during the 15th Annual Delaware Agriculture Week held at the State Fairgrounds in Harrington, a week-long conference that covers agricultural operations in Delaware and provides critical updates, research, and training for members of the industry. Governor Carney issued a proclamation declaring the week of January 13 to January 17,  2020 as “Delaware Agriculture Week.”

Click here to view the proclamation.

“Delaware has a rich farming history, and agriculture remains our number one industry. It’s no surprise Delaware’s farmers markets continue to gain popularity with Delawareans and visitors to the state who want to purchase local, Delaware grown foods and farm-fresh products from family farms,” said Governor Carney. “Agriculture contributes $8 billion to Delaware’s economy, and we’ve permanently preserved 25 percent of Delaware’s farmland so that agriculture will continue to be the backbone of our economy.”

Delaware’s Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse said in a time when ordering groceries using an app and picking up curbside is popular, these figures are indicative of how much people value the connection with the farmers growing their food.

“Looking at 2019, the weather was cooperative, and our farmers had a lot of great produce to sell at our local farmers’ markets,” said Scuse. “Delaware produce is seasonal and changes from month to month, week to week. The variety of Delaware grown fruits, vegetables, herbs and other items provides a lot of options for consumers who want to eat healthy.”

Sales from all 19 Delaware community-run farmers’ markets this year totaled $3,277,788, up more than $394,086 from 2018 – an increase of 13.7 percent. Sales have increased more than elevenfold since the Department of Agriculture began tracking them in 2007.

Fresh produce made up 57 percent of total sales, with the remainder coming from products such as meats, cheeses, jellies, breads, salsa, eggs, or honey.

In 2019, there were 14 markets that participated in the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and the Women, Infants, and Children Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. Both programs had their highest participation since Delaware began offering these benefits. There were 9 markets that participated in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). These programs help expand access for low-income residents to be able to purchase fresh local produce at Delaware farmers’ markets. 

Delaware farmers’ markets are all run at the local level, by municipalities, business groups, farmers or market associations, with the Department of Agriculture providing support and marketing assistance.

The 2020 market season will begin in April; most markets start their operations in May, June, and July. A list of the 2019 markets is online at Delaware Grown, and will be updated in late March for 2020.

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