NORTH SMITHFIELD – A dairy farm and bakery in North Smithfield was recently among 35 businesses across the northeast to receive a significant boost from the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center.
Wright’s Dairy Farm was the only dairy processor in Rhode Island to receive the funding through the organization’s Existing Dairy Processor Expansion Grant.
With total funding of $12,287,001 across eight states, individual awards range from $25,852 to $1 million. The one-time infusion came about in response to Danone/Horizon cutting milk contracts with Northeast dairy farmers. The USDA asked a Northeast Dairy Taskforce to look at the issue, which was convened by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.
The regional task force recommended investing “catalytic levels of funding into existing successful track-record processors positioned to scale production quickly.”
The USDA awarded an additional $20 million to address the stability and viability of Northeast regional dairy. The grants will fund specialized equipment to help processors increase the use of regionally sourced milk and expand regional dairy processing capacity.
“USDA is proud to be a partner with Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets in their ongoing efforts to support the region’s dairy businesses through the Northeast Dairy Business Initiative,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “This funding will expand markets for dairy producers, ensure a steady supply of dairy products to consumers, and make significant contributions to the region’s economy.”
A release on the awards noted that applicant went through a rigorous selection process, and were divided into three tiers based on production volume. Successful applicants in Tiers 1 and 2 went through two written applications, followed by a virtual presentation of their projects. Tier 3 applicants asking for more than $150,000 also gave virtual presentations. Each application was reviewed by a minimum of three dairy sector experts from across the Northeast.
Wright’s, a fifth-generation dairy farm based on Woonsocket Hill Road, was a Tier 3 applicant, and will reportedly install specialized equipment to improve worker safety and food safety with the help of a $425,642 grant. According to the center, the equipment will allow the business to increase their processing capacity by 15 percent, and decrease packaging costs by 1.5 percent.
The property has been a working dairy farm for more than 100 years and has received a Vermont DHIA award for consistently producing high-quality milk. In 2019, it was named Outstanding Dairy Farm of the Year by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.