Additional funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act intended to connect Wisconsin agriculture to those in need is coming in July.

The Food Security Initiative, announced by Gov. Tony Evers in May, is funded by $15 million in federal dollars provided to Wisconsin through the CARES Act. The first $5 million in funding from the Food Security Initiative is intended to support changes food banks and pantries have made to address the challenges presented by COVID-19, and a request for proposals for the first round of grants will be released in early July.

The second round of grants worth $10 million will focus on strengthening the presence of Wisconsin products within the food-security network. Applicants will be encouraged to partner with organizations that work directly with Wisconsin’s agricultural producers and food processors to maximize the use of Wisconsin products. A request for proposals for the second round of grants will be released in mid- to late July.

“...(T)he two grant programs that make up the Food Security Initiative are a win-win for our state,” Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary-designee Randy Romanski said. “Through these grants, we can help alleviate food insecurity while also investing in our agriculture industry. These two programs seek to support our food supply chain all the way from farm to family.”

DATCP is encouraging those interested in applying for grants through the Food Security Initiative to sign up for email updates at FoodSecurity.wi.gov. The distribution list will be used to share program information with applicants for both grant programs.

DATCP operations

DATCP and other state agencies are moving to Phase 2 of their COVID-19 plans starting July 13, Romanski said on a June 25 conference call with ag media.

Some staff will move back into DATCP offices, and on-farm produce inspections and food plant inspections are slowly resuming with employee precautions in place, Romanski said.

DATCP and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services got positive feedback from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about the state’s approach to COVID-19 testing and engagement within the food-processing industry.

Romanski said the Department of Health Services and the Department of Workforce Development have been working working to ensure the safety of workers during fruit and vegetable harvest and processing season.