February 21, 2023

Rep. Tanzi, Sen. Sosnowski, Governor McKee, DEM announce commitment to grant program helping grow agricultural, seafood businesses

PROVIDENCE, RI – Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi, Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski, Governor Dan McKee and Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos today pledged their support to continue funding the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act (LASA), an important catalyst in strengthening the local food system, at historically high levels in fiscal year 2024. Authored by Senator V. Susan Sosnowski in 2012 and run by the Department of Environmental Management (DEM), the LASA program helps new and existing small food businesses grow and flourish. Since the COVID pandemic, DEM has steered the program to prioritize building capacity for markets connecting local farms and fishers with food-insecure communities and supporting agriculture producers and fishers who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color – along with developing small food businesses. “The Local Agriculture and Seafood Act has always been about being firmly committed to our constituents and sending the message that we are 100 percent behind local businesses,” said Senator Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown). “Local food gets from farm to table in fresher condition and means fewer trucks on the road, which means less air pollution. LASA encourages more people to eat more local food. This means better health for Rhode Islanders and our environment.” “Food security means that all people, always, have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food,” said Representative Tanzi (D-dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett). “Of its many benefits, maybe the biggest is that the LASA program strengthens food security and builds our communities. My district includes farms, food businesses, shellfishing, and the Port of Galilee, where most of Rhode Island’s commercial fishing fleet operates, so I’ve seen firsthand how LASA grants catalyze growth and look forward to the success stories that the grantees announced today will bring into being.” The fiscal year 2023 budget enacted by the General Assembly funded LASA at $700,000 – nearly three times more than the fiscal 2022 level. Governor McKee’s “RI Ready” fiscal 2024 budget submitted to the General Assembly in January proposes another $700,000 for the program. “LASA is a pillar of our food strategy through which Rhode Island is investing to provide consistent access to safe, healthy, affordable food – and to give a foothold to small businesses in the green economy,” said Governor McKee. “Since 2012 and including the grant awards announced today, LASA has provided more than $2 million to assist dozens of small businesses across the state. I look forward to working with the General Assembly to ensure the continued historic funding of this worthy program.” “I applaud the commitment, partnership, and funding that have resulted in a program that addresses food and economic inequities and fosters a sense of social interconnectedness,” said Lt. Governor Matos. “I am especially impressed by the LASA program’s commitment to supporting agriculture and seafood producers who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and look forward to seeing how recipients use their grants to make Rhode Island’s food system more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive.” “DEM is always working to get more home-grown food on the table and by supporting local farmers and fishers in growing their businesses, the LASA grants help achieve this,” said DEM Director Terry Gray. “Growing local and eating local, fresh, sustainable food minimizes transportation costs, reduces carbon emissions, and boosts the local economy while providing the freshest product possible to the consumer.”