Bend Bulletin - Small-scale farms in Oregon receive $1.5 million in disaster assistance

December 22, 2022
Bend Bulletin - Small-scale farms in Oregon receive $1.5 million in disaster assistance

PORTLAND — More than 100 small-scale and beginning farmers in Oregon have been awarded grants to help recover from natural disasters in 2021.

State lawmakers approved a funding package in December 2021 to provide emergency aid for producers reeling from drought, wildfires, extreme heat and ice damage.

A total of $40 million was earmarked to create the Oregon Disaster Assistance Program, or ODAP, which issued forgivable loans to keep farms and ranches financially solvent until they could receive federal disaster relief from the USDA.

Another $1.5 million was also allocated to the nonprofit Oregon Community Food Systems Network to assist small-scale farmers who were ineligible for ODAP.

The coalition awarded grants to 108 recipients over three rounds of funding in 2022. Grants were capped at $30,000 and averaged $13,186.

"We were targeting the real small, underserved farmers," said Brittney Deming, community engagement manager for Friends of Family Farmers, which administered the network's Farmer and Rancher Disaster Relief Grant program.

To qualify, applicants could not have annual gross sales of more than $350,000 and must have been found not eligible for assistance through ODAP.

Grants were awarded for losses sustained during natural disasters in 2021, including:

• The collapse of a greenhouse due to heavy snow and ice.

• Crop losses due to extreme heat.• Loss of hay due to wildfires.

• Smoke damage to crops and animals from nearby wildfires.

• Replacement feed for animals due to lower hay yields caused by drought.

• Underselling livestock due to lack of food and water caused by drought.

About 54% of the $1.5 million disbursed went to farms and ranches in the Willamette Valley. A little more than 23% went to producers in Southern Oregon, 12% to Central Oregon, 8% to Eastern Oregon and 2% to the coast.

Shin Lee, network coordinator for the Oregon Community Food Systems Network, said there were no restrictions on how the money could be used.

"We're going to trust people to use the money in ways that will best serve their businesses," Lee said.

Additional preference was given to undeserved farmers and ranchers. Of the 108 grant recipients, 41 were Black, Indigenous or another minority.

Established in 2016, the Oregon Community Food Systems Network includes 60 organizations, including the Oregon Food Bank and Oregon State University Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems.

-George Plaven

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