When Botetourt County received Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds to help local small businesses, county officials decided to use some of the money to help area farmers.
That led to the August 2020 creation of the Botetourt County COVID-19 Farm Operation Grant Program, which is similar to the county’s small business grant program. The Botetourt County Board of Supervisors voted to appropriate a portion of the CARES Act money for farmers experiencing losses due to the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every part of our community, and our local farms have felt that impact too,” said the board’s vice chairman, Dr. Richard Bailey, who proposed the farm grant idea. “As a county with a strong agricultural heritage, I am proud that the board is able to support our farmers in this time of need.”
Ken McFadyen, the county’s director of economic development, said Botetourt officials recognized farmers also are operating small businesses, as well as providing food and important resources for the community. Many area farms sought assistance through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which county officials used as a qualifier for farmers to apply and receive funds from the farm grant program. It helped offset losses not covered by the FSA grant program.
“We asked our farmers to give us an estimate of their remaining losses after their FSA grant, and we either covered their remaining losses or we provided a cap on the grant of up to $4,000,” McFadyen explained.
Farmers who applied and were approved for the farm grant received their checks in December. The program distributed $157,672 among 50 Botetourt County farms, McFadyen said.
Preston Wickline, president of Botetourt County Farm Bureau, said the county had been trying to find ways to help farmers facing hardships.
“We have a broad range of agriculture in the county,” Wickline said. “There’s a few dairies and cattlemen, and it’s affected everyone in different ways. We could all use a little assistance to help with the bills. We’re grateful for [the county] having the foresight to go through with it.”