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Wrights’ Dairy Farm Among Beneficiaries of $12.2M Northeast Grant Boosting Dairy Sector Resilience

Wrights' Dairy Farm Among Beneficiaries of $12.2M Northeast Grant Boosting Dairy Sector Resilience
Wrights' Dairy Farm Among Beneficiaries of $12.2M Northeast Grant Boosting Dairy Sector Resilience

Wrights’ Dairy Farm Among Beneficiaries of $12.2M Northeast Grant Boosting Dairy Sector Resilience

Wrights’ Dairy Farm, nestled in North Smithfield, Rhode Island, stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of a region deeply rooted in agricultural traditions.

This family-owned establishment, characterized by its picturesque surroundings and rich history, has now found itself at the heart of a transformative initiative aimed at fortifying the resilience of the dairy sector in the Northeast.

The Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center (NE-DBIC) recently made a resounding announcement, unveiling the recipients of the Existing Dairy Processor Expansion Grant.

In a move that underscores a commitment to rejuvenating the dairy industry, $12.2 million has been allocated across eight states, impacting 35 dairy processors.

This substantial investment, catalyzed by the Northeast Dairy Taskforce, is poised to bring about positive changes for dairy businesses of all sizes, ranging from farmstead creameries to multi-state enterprises and cooperatives.

Rhode Island, often overshadowed by its larger neighboring states, has a unique charm, and within its borders lies Wrights’ Dairy Farm.

This Tier 3 recipient of the grant has been earmarked for notable developments that promise to enhance not only the farm’s operational efficiency but also the safety of its workers.

The infusion of funds is designated for the installation of specialized equipment, a strategic move to amplify both worker safety and food safety measures.

Wrights' Dairy Farm Among Beneficiaries of $12.2M Northeast Grant Boosting Dairy Sector Resilience
Wright’s Dairy Farm Among Beneficiaries of $12.2M Northeast Grant Boosting Dairy Sector Resilience

Wrights’ Dairy Farm, known for its commitment to quality and tradition, is set to experience a 15% increase in processing capacity—a significant stride that aligns with the broader goal of fortifying the region’s dairy processing capabilities. In addition to boosting efficiency, the grant aims to address cost concerns, with a projected 1.5% reduction in packaging costs.

This catalytic injection of funding isn’t a mere windfall; rather, it’s a strategic response to the challenges faced by the Northeast’s dairy sector.

The genesis of this initiative can be traced back to the Northeast Dairy Taskforce, a regional collaboration prompted by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets at the request of USDA Secretary Vilsack.

This taskforce was tasked with formulating an actionable response to the repercussions of Danone/Horizon terminating milk contracts with Northeast dairy farmers.

The rationale behind Danone’s decision was to shift from long milk routes and multi-day driving jobs to a more proximate processing plant, leading to their exit from the region.

In response to this, the regional taskforce proposed a proactive approach—investing “catalytic levels of funding into existing successful track-record processors positioned to scale production quickly.”

The USDA subsequently acknowledged the merit of this proposal, awarding the NE-DBIC an additional $20 million to address the stability and viability of the Northeast regional dairy sector.

The Existing Dairy Processor Expansion Grant, a tangible outcome of this broader initiative, is strategically tailored to address the sector’s challenges. Beyond financial support, the grant aims to facilitate the expansion of regional dairy processing capacity by funding specialized equipment. This not only aids processors in leveraging locally sourced milk but also contributes to the region’s overall dairy resilience.

USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt emphasized the USDA’s pride in partnering with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets.

She underscored that this funding will not only expand markets for dairy producers but also ensure a consistent supply of dairy products to consumers, making substantial contributions to the region’s economy.

The ripple effects of this initiative are profound, with over 3,200 dairy farmers expected to benefit from the expansion of processing capacity. This strategic move not only stabilizes existing options for milk but also opens avenues for increased local dairy availability on store shelves throughout the Northeast.

Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts aptly captures the sentiment, stating, “Dairy delivers for Vermont and the Northeast. Our farmers are committed to producing a high-quality product, but they need support. These investments are great for our processors, farmers, and consumers.” Tebbetts emphasized the grants’ role in keeping a diverse array of dairy products, from milk and butter to cheese, yogurt, and ice cream, readily available in stores, schools, and homes.

Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding echoed these sentiments, emphasizing the significance of small dairy farms, which collectively wield a considerable impact on innovation and industry leadership. The support from the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center is seen as pivotal in nurturing expansion and competitiveness among these farms.

The selection process for grant recipients involved a rigorous evaluation, categorizing applicants into three tiers based on production volume. Those in Tiers 1 and 2 underwent two written applications followed by a virtual presentation of their projects. Tier 3 applicants, seeking over $150,000, also presented their proposals virtually. Each application underwent thorough scrutiny by a panel of at least three dairy sector experts from across the Northeast.

Wrights’ Dairy Farm, positioned as a Tier 3 applicant, emerged as a deserving recipient of this transformative grant. The significance of this funding extends beyond immediate improvements; it serves as an investment in the sustained growth and viability of dairy processing in the region.

The broader impact of this grant is expected to resonate across the dairy sector, fostering resilience, sustainability, and innovation. By strategically directing funds toward equipment that enhances safety, efficiency, and processing capacity, the initiative lays the foundation for a more robust and adaptive dairy industry in the Northeast.

In conclusion, as the Northeast embraces this catalytic investment in its dairy sector, the ripple effects are poised to resonate from the picturesque landscapes of Rhode Island to the expansive dairy farms scattered across the region. Wrights’ Dairy Farm, with its rich history and commitment to quality, stands as a beacon of the transformative potential inherent in strategic investments aimed at fortifying the very backbone of the Northeast’s agricultural heritage.

 


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