LASA Grants Program

What is the LASA Grants Program?
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Division of Agriculture is accepting grant applications for the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act (LASA) Grants Program.  The goal of the program, established by the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act of 2012, is to support the growth, development, and marketing of local food and seafood in the Rhode Island. 

The LASA Grants Program is co-managed by the Department of Environmental Management and the RI Food Policy Council, and is made possible by $100,000 in state funding that former Governor Lincoln D. Chafee and the General Assembly included in the DEM budget, and an additional $130,000 in matching funds from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, the Henry P. Kendall Foundation, and the Rhode Island Foundation, granted to the RI Food Policy Council.  This unique and unprecedented public-private partnership will provide grants intended to directly benefit and strengthen the local food system in RI.

The RIDEM Division of Agriculture, in concert with the LASA Grants Program Advisory Committee, administers the LASA Grants Program.  The LASA Advisory Committee sets priorities each grant year and makes recommendations to the Director of the RIDEM.

2015 LASA Advisory Committee
Ken Ayars, Chief of the Division of Agriculture at RIDEM, Chair LASA Advisory Committee
Phil Larson, Volunteer at Jamestown Community Farm and Chairman, Jamestown Aquaculture Movement, Vice-Chair LASA Advisory Committee

Sheila Brush, Director of Programs, Grow Smart RI and representing the RI Food Policy Council
David Dadekian, President, EatDrinkRI and representing the RI Food Policy Council
Mike Giveney, President of the RI Shellfisherman's Association
Max Greene, Staff Attorney, Conservation Law Foundation
Jules Opton-Himmel, Owner and Farmer, Walrus and Carpenter Oysters, LLC
Kenneth Payne, Principal, Systems Aesthetics, LLC and representing the RI Agricultural Partnership

Nessa Richman, Brightseed Strategies

Priorities for the 2015 LASA Grants Program

  • Projects that support the growth and sustainability of small or beginning agriculture producers (including aquaculture producers) and fishermen/women.
  • Projects that foster new collaborations or share new information among Rhode Island food businesses, organizations or enterprises.
  • Projects that support new products or new sales channels with clearly defined markets.

Who is eligible to apply? **Please refer to 2015 Guidelines for complete eligibility requirements and definitions**
Non-profit organizations, farmers, fishermen/women, collaboratives, cooperatives, partnerships and businesses are eligible to apply. Applicants must be based in the State of Rhode Island. The Advisory Committee will value geographic diversity in the applicant pool when making award determinations.  Only small and/or beginning farmers, or producer groups of small or beginning farmers, are eligible to apply for capital grants.  (Aquaculture operators are considered farmers in this regard).

Ineligible activities include:  non-project related travel, scholarships, on-going capital campaigns, political or policy advocacy campaigns, conference/workshop attendance fees, etc.

How much can an applicant apply for?
Applicants may receive award amounts up to a maximum of $20,000.  Overhead and/or administrative costs are limited to 10% of total budget proposal.  Approximately half of the 2014 awardees received $10,000 or under for their projects.

Where can I find 2015 LASA Application Materials?
The Application and the Guidelines Document can be found on the Rhode Island Division of Agriculture website, under "Grant Opportunities" (left side menu bar).  It also can be found on this LASA page (LASA Documents sidebar, right).

Grant Review & Timing  **Please see 2015 Guidelines for complete details**

  • All grant applications are due to the RI DEM, Division of Agriculture by 11:59 pm on Tuesday, February 17, 2015
  • Applications emailed to:
    Mailed to/dropped off: Division of Agriculture, 235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908
    *Please note that the Division of Agriculture office closes at 4:30 pm
  • Email submissions are strongly preferred.
  • The Division of Agriculture will send an email confirmation when applications arrive at the office as long as an email address has been provided on the application form.
  • Applicants will be notified of award decisions by May, 15 2015

Where can I find help to fill in the application correctly?
Attend a 2015 LASA Grants Program Technical Assistance Sessions: (** New dates and times**)

  • Thursday, January 29th, 6:00 -7 :00 p.m. at Hope & Main (community room): 691 Main Street, Warren, RI 02885
  • Saturday, January 31st, 2:00 -3:00 p.m. at the Kingston Free Library (Potter Hall): 2605 Kingstown Road, Kingston, RI 02881
  • Tuesday Feb. 3rd, 4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. at the Knight Memorial Library (auditorium): 275 Elmwood Avenue, Providence, RI 02907

Additional Questions?
Email the LASA Technical Assistance Team:


Frequently Asked Questions

Can a non-profit, running a small farm, apply for a piece of farm equipment, like a tractor, under this grant opportunity?
Yes, as long as the farm meets the definition of a small or beginning farm as defined in the Guidelines - A small farmer is defined as one with annual revenues not exceeding $250,000.  A beginning farmer, aquaculture producer or fisherman/woman is one who has not operated a farm, aquaculture operation or fishing operation for more than 10 years.  In either case, one must either be an owner-operator of substantially participate in the operation of the farm, aquaculture or fishing business.

Are Rhode Island municipalities eligible to apply for the LASA Grants Program if they have a non-profit status?

If a nonprofit is headquartered in another state, but serves Rhode Island, are they eligible to apply?
Per the application language, nonprofits must be based in the State of Rhode Island - meaning they must be registered in Rhode Island.  Nonprofits headquartered in other states could only apply for a LASA grant if they are partnering with a lead applicant based in Rhode Island.  *Please note that for RI-based businesses (for-profits), a legal incorporation status does not have to be in RI (due to lack of RI laws for incorporation of some types of businesses).  As long as the business itself is based in RI - meaning operating within the state, they are eligible to apply.*  If an explanation is necessary for the LASA Grants Committee, please make this clear in the application.

For organizations working with farmers, should the organization apply for funding or should the farmers apply on their own?
Either way is fine - an organization may apply for the funds or individual farmers may apply as long as they meet the USDA definition for new or beginner farmers as outlined in the Application and Guideline materials.

If only small and/or beginning farmers are allowed to apply for capital funding, can a nonprofit organization (that meets the definition of small and/or beginning farmer) apply for capital funding on behalf of a group of small and/or beginning farmers?
Yes, as long as all the conditions as listed above are met in terms of small and/or beginning farmer status - the nonprofit organization applying itself meets the definition of small and/or beginning farmer.  Please note** The current LASA Grants Program only allows those meeting the definition for small and/or beginning farmers to apply for capital funding.

Will the funding be distributed equally between land-based and water-based projects?
No, the funding will be distributed based on the quality of the applications.  The Committee will also make an effort to award projects with geographic diversity and an impact on the RI food system diversity in mind.

How much detail does an applicant need to provide in an application?  May I attach additional materials if the space allotted on the application is not enough?
The LASA Advisory Committee is made up of a diverse group of individuals with varying expertise in different areas of the RI local food system.  Please provide enough detail in your application so that your project can be fully understood by a wide range of Committee members, but not too much as to detract from making the key aspects of your project easily understood.  A longer application does not necessarily mean a better one, but if necessary, appendices and additional documents may be added.

Is is okay for applicants submit multiple applications to LASA for different projects?  If projects are submitted for the Specialty Crops Block Grant Program can they still be submitted for the LASA grants program?
There is no restriction for the number of projects/applications that an individual or organization submits to the LASA grants program.  The Specialty Crop Block Grant program awards will be scored and awarded before the LASA awards so that there is no duplication of effort.  Applicants may apply for both, but please note that the criteria is more specific for the Specialty Crops Block grant Program, so certain projects may not fit into both funding areas.

As a public-private partnership, will the RIDEM have certain benchmarks for this project that need to be hit for this funding stream to continue in future years?
Right now, there are no qualitative benchmarks to ensure continuation of this funding in future years.  It will be put into the RIDEM budget, but the funding is not guaranteed, it is a political process and dependent on the General Assembly and the Governor.  The critical success this of funding will be based upon the success of the various projects that are funded and their overall contribution to the local food system.  Awardees should expect, in addition to the interim and final reports required for their project, media and RIFPC staff interest in documenting (photos, articles, interviews) progress during the projects.

If you are applying for capital purchases, do you need to provide tax returns to verify your financial situation as reflected in your application?
No, the LASA grant does not ask for tax documentation to be provided with the application.  By signing the application before you submit it, you are entering into a legal agreement with the LASA Grants Program Advisory Committee, and the State,  that all the information you provided in the application was truthful, accurate and complete to the best of your knowledge.  The Advisory Committee, and the State, reserve the right to ask for additional information from potential awardees, but attached financial documents are not required as part of the application process.

Are matching funds required for this grant application?
No, matching funds are not required for the LASA funding.  However, as with all important information about the budget for your project, if you have funding sources that will help with your potential project, be sure to mention that on your application.

Could you please define overhead and administrative costs?
Overhead or administrative costs are the costs of day-to-day operations.  These can include a percentage of bookkeeper or accounting costs, rent, electricity, etc.  Overhead costs are items that a company or organization is paying for on a regular basis and are not project-specific and so, therefore, are limited to 10% of the total LASA grant proposed budget.

If an applicant receives an award, is the grant money taxed?
Yes, LASA grant funds would be treated as income and would be taxed under the personal income tax.

Would an applicant need to have 501c3 status in order to be awarded funds, or would they still be eligible if they are incorporated in RI as a nonprofit, but don't have 501c3 status yet?
You do not need to be a 501c3 in order to apply for LASA funds.

Can you please define what "organization" means in the application?
The term "organizations" encompasses both nonprofits and businesses - anyone applying that is not an individual.

If our business is in formation and do not have an EIN yet (pending), may we still apply?
Yes, an EIN (Employer Identification Number) is not required to apply for LASA funds.  But please indicate on your application if you are in the process of obtaining one.  For IRS reporting purposes, sole proprietorships commonly use the owner's SS number as a Tax ID, while all other businesses commonly use an EIN as a Tax ID. 

If providing annual gross and revenue figures, can figure ranges be used, for example "6 figures" or "$100,000 to $999,999"?
If you are applying as an individual farmer for a capital grants, you need to give specifics on approximate annual gross revenue and annual net income for each of the last 3 years.  It cannot be an income range.  Eligibility is based on the $250K threshold definition, so this is important for the application.

Is apiculture (beekeeping), like aquaculture (aquatic organism farming), considered part of agriculture for this grant process?
Yes, apiculture is agriculture and eligible.

Can LASA funding be used on leased farmland and can it be used for farm business start-up?

If you have a RI-based food business, do you need to grow (farm) your own ingredients in order to be eligible for LASA-funding?
No, but if food-based applicants are sourcing or processing locally for their ingredients, that should be mentioned in the application materials since it would improve connectivity to LASA core goals.  Applicants should be sure to refer to the 2015 Priorities for additional help in making applications competitive.

Can LASA funding be used to pay for employees/personnel involved in a specific LASA project?
Yes, project-specific personnel costs are eligible to be included in the total LASA grant proposal, but grant funds cannot pay for the regular duties of employees.  Overhead costs otherwise (utilities, copying, etc.) are limited to no more than 10% of total LASA proposed budget.

If you do not meet the definition of a small and/or beginning farmer and cannot apply for capital funding, what would constitute eligible expenses?
The enabling statute and rules of the LASA program limit capital grants (such as equipment) to new or beginning farmers (though there is consideration to trying to broaden this going forward).   As a result, seafood marketing and commercial fisheries are eligible to apply for funding areas but NOT for capital expenditures.  Funds could be used to develop or enhance marketing programs, website development, advertising, formation of cooperatives, new product development and food safety related programs.  It is grant policy to limit overhead to no more than 10% of the overall grant.