LI Farm Bureau wins $500G state grant to use food plant

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Farmers are getting a break on the cost of using a new food-processing plant in Baiting Hollow, officials said Monday.

The Long Island Farm Bureau recently won final approval for a $500,000 state grant to help defray the expenses of businesses using the Agriculture Enterprise Park, located at 2711 Sound Ave.

The 108,000-square-foot facility, once home to Blackman Plumbing Supply Co., opened last year under the ownership of food distributor J. Kings of Holbrook.

The farm bureau is renting 30,000 square feet for three years to be used for cold storage and food processing by area farmers. The state grant underwrites the lease.

State officials said many wineries, two farms and a greenhouse operation are already participating in the bureau's $1-million initiative, including Martha Clara Vineyards, Jamesport Vineyards, Wells Homestead Acres and Kawasaki Greenhouses.

Joe Gergela, the bureau's executive director, said state funds would reduce participants' expense. He also said chilling vegetables and storing wine in cold temperatures can extend their shelf life and open new markets.

"If we can bring profitability and economic sustainability to any business operation that wants that help, then we will have accomplished a good thing," Gergela said. "What we're trying to do is help these businesses stay in business, whether it's a winery, a traditional farm, an organic farm, a fisherman or a flower grower."

To use the facility, he said, business owners should contact the farm bureau or the Peconic Land Trust. The bureau charges a $300-per-year fee, and J. Kings charges an entrance and exit fee for products in the building.

The board of directors of Empire State Development approved the money earlier this month.

The directors also agreed to transfer $166,667 for small business loans from the Community Development Corp. of Long Island to Community Capital New York, which serves entrepreneurs in Westchester, Dutchess, Putnam and Rockland counties.

The money is part of a $500,000 award given to CDC in 2011 for loans to small businesses and companies owned by minorities or women.

CDC has distributed $333,333 of the funds "but indicated its inability to deploy the remaining $166,667 . . . in the near future," according to state documents.

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