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Opinion — Grant program available

It was announced last week that a new grant program designed to support equitable and sustainable local food systems for small-scale agricultural producers, farmers markets and food hubs is now available. It is a new component of the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund.

The AFID Infrastructure Grant program is designed to support equitable and sustainable local food systems by investing in the infrastructure that supports small-scale agricultural producers, farmers’ markets and food hubs. Drawing from the AFID Fund, the new AFID Infrastructure Grant program competitively awards matching grants of up to $25,000 in partnership with local governments for community infrastructure development projects that support local food production and sustainable agriculture.

Special reduced match requirements are available to projects in economically distressed localities or underserved communities and for those benefiting multiple small-scale producers.

Created by Delegate Sam Rasoul’s House Bill 2068 during the 2021 General Assembly session, the AFID Infrastructure Program is focused on awarding reimbursable grants primarily for capital projects at new and existing food hubs, farmers’ markets, commercial kitchens and other value-added facilities such as those used for processing and packaging meats, dairy products, produce or other Virginia-grown products. Small farmers, food producers, local food systems advocates and others interested in building their community’s local food and farming infrastructure are encouraged to learn more about the program and work with their localities to identify and develop suitable projects.

The inaugural funding round opens Oct. 1, with an application deadline of Nov. 15, and award announcements made no later than Dec. 31.

A virtual Program Overview and How-to-Apply Workshop is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 8, from 10 -11a.m. –use this link to join:

https://covaconf.webex.com/covaconf/onstage/g.php?MTID=ecf5b2650b527af7abd8bc984362ac7e6. The workshop will be recorded and available for those who could not attend.

Additional information about the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Infrastructure program is available at https://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/agriculture-afid-infrastructure-grants.shtml.

Tuesday, Sept. 28, marks the start of Virginia’s sixth annual High School Voter Registration Challenge, which encourages schools to register as many of their voting-age population as possible. High schools that register at least 65% of their eligible senior class will receive a congratulatory certificate from the Governor. The annual competition, created in 2016, is the result of a collaboration between the Office of the Governor, the Secretaries of Administration and Education, the Virginia Department of Elections and the League of Women Voters of Virginia.

The challenge helps high schools comply with a 2020 law that requires Virginia public high schools to facilitate voter registration during the school day. Students born on or before Nov. 2, 2003, can register to vote in this year’s Nov. 2 general election.

There are many ways to register to vote. Volunteers or local election officials will provide voter registration opportunities for students in public and private high schools. Virginians are automatically registered when they access services at a Department of Motor Vehicles office or on the DMV website. Additionally, Virginians can register to vote by submitting paper applications to their local general registrar by mail, in person, or by completing the online form on the Department of Elections’ website.

Resources to help schools educate and register students are available through the Department of Elections and the League of Women Voters of Virginia. Schools participating in the Governor’s Challenge can get credit for each student who registers to vote via the Department of Elections’ Citizen Portal by using their school’s unique URL that can be found on the League of Women Voters of Virginia website. For more information, contact Janet Boyd, voter services director for the League of Women Voters of Virginia, at HSVRChallenge@lwv-va.org.

I have compiled a list of important dates pertaining to the November Elections. Early voting began Sept. 17 and ends Oct. 30. Oct. 12 is the deadline to register to vote or update existing registration. Oct. 22 is the deadline to request an absentee ballot be mailed to you. Must be received in Registrar’s Office by 5 p.m.

There are five Early Voting Locations in the 59th District, located at your counties registrar’s office.

Albemarle County Registrar’s Office is located at 1600 Fifth St., Ext, Charlottesville, VA 22902. Operating hours are 8:30a.m.-5p.m. Monday through Friday, and their phone number is (434)972-4173. Appomattox County Registrar’s Office is located at 367 Virginia Avenue, Appomattox, VA 24522. Operating hours are 8:30a.m.-4:30p.m. Monday through Friday, and their phone number is (434)352-5302. Buckingham County Registrar’s Office is located at 13360 W James Anderson Hwy, Buckingham, VA 23921. Operating hours are 8:30a.m.-4:30p.m. Monday through Friday, and their phone number is (434)969-4304. Campbell County Registrar’s Office is located at 774 Village Highway, Rustburg, VA 24588. Operating hours are 8:30a.m.-5p.m. Monday through Friday, and their phone number is (434)332-9579. Nelson County Registrar’s Office is located at 571 Front Street, Lovingston, VA 22949. Operating hours are 9a.m.-5p.m. Monday through Friday, and their phone number is (434)263-7190.

You can also visit https://vote.elections.virginia.gov/VoterInformation to register, check your registration status, find your polling location, and apply to vote absentee.

Del. C. Matthew Fariss represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.