Fruit and vegetable producers in 16 Southside counties will be eligible for matching grants this year under a program funded by the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission.

The initiative offers producers in the Southern Virginia Tobacco region an opportunity to apply for a cost-share incentive of up to $600 per producer to obtain a USDA Good Agricultural Practices audit or to move to a higher-level USDA GAP audit. Cost-share funds will be available to producers who meet all eligibility requirements.

The objective of the Increasing Market Access for Southern Virginia Growers through GAP Preparation is to provide assistance to producers navigating market produce food safety requirements, provide on-farm Good Agricultural Practices preparation assistance, provide GAP resource manuals to assist producers access new markets requiring one of the USDA GAP audits.

Knowledge and implementation of USDA GAP practices, food safety plan writing and associated audit costs may be prohibitive to producers exploring accessing new market opportunities. This initiative will help prepare producers to navigate the USDA GAP audit process and prepare for an audit.

This project will include the counties of Amelia, Appomattox, Bedford, Brunswick, Campbell, Charlotte, Dinwiddie, Franklin, Halifax, Henry, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Patrick, Pittsylvania, and Prince Edward. Producers who live in the following counties of Buckingham, Cumberland, Greensville, and Sussex who sell produce through a producers’ cooperative/association located in one of the 16 primary counties are also eligible.

Producers interested in applying for funding must attend one of the informational/educational sessions for GAP for fruit and vegetables offered by Virginia Cooperative Extension prior to applying for funds.

The following sessions have been scheduled:

Dec. 4, 2 to 4 p.m.: Olde Dominion Agricultural Complex, 19783 U.S. Hwy. 29 South, Chatham

Dec. 5, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.: Midway Baptist Church, 2395 Midway Road, Phenix

Dec. 10, 1 to 3 p.m.: Virginia Cooperative Extension-Brunswick, 100-A Tobacco St., Lawrenceville

Dec. 12, 6 to 8 p.m.: Southern Piedmont AREC, 2375 Darvills Road, Blackstone

Cost-share applications will be accepted beginning Monday, Dec. 16. Funding is limited and will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis with priority considerations for producers showing buyer requirement of GAP audit.

For more information, call the Virginia Cooperative Extension office at 483-5161.

— Submitted by Carol Haynes

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