The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative (WLEI) and governing Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB) were created in accordance with Act 142 of 2012 to stimulate economic development in the agricultural and forestry sectors by systematically advancing entrepreneurship, business development, and job creation. Investment in grant funds and matching dollars have been critical to completing projects that preserve and enhance the working landscape. Below are some highlights of the efforts in Fiscal Year 2020:
• In 2020, the WLEB reviewed over 180 applications with a total ask of over $6.8 million.
• The Legislature allocated $500,000 of dairy-focused funds, allowing the WLEB to support value-added dairy and farm diversification, and increase dairy investments by 7% from 2019.
• The additional allocation of one million dollars provided Market Level Industry Impact investments, adding a mid-tier opportunity with Supply Chain Impact investments, while also continuing the traditional Standard Business grants.
• In June, with an early response to the ongoing urgent needs arising from COVID-19 challenges to Vermont’s Working Lands businesses, the (WLEB) awarded 16 businesses and one service provider over $250,000 in COVID-19 Response Business Development Grants within the sectors of agriculture and forestry, prior to Federal COVID-19 Relief Funds dollars arriving to Vermont.
• The Vermont State Legislature appropriated Coronavirus Relief Funds to the WLEF via two bills. H.966 for Agriculture and Working Lands Assistance was signed by Governor Scott in July. $2.5 million was appropriated to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, then routed to the WLEF for agricultural, food and forest, and wood product industries. The $1 million H.961 went directly to WLEF, and the board opted a path for dollars directly to Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets’ greater Vermont COVID-19 Agriculture Assistance Program, to ensure swift relief to businesses for past economic harm.
Read the complete Report: 2020 Working Lands Enterprise Initiative Impact Report