Wednesday, April 23, 2014 by Lee Mannering
Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the availability of approximately $66 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants to state departments of agriculture for projects that help support specialty crop growers, including locally grown fruits and vegetables, through research, programs to increase demand, and more. The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, administered by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, is designed to enhance the markets for specialty crops like fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.
AMS encourages states to develop projects solely to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops pertaining to the following issues affecting the specialty crop industry:
- Increasing nutritional knowledge and specialty crop consumption among children and adults,
- Improving efficiency within the distribution system,
- Promoting the development of good agricultural, handling and manufacturing practices while encouraging audit cost-sharing for small farmers, packers, and processors,
- Supporting research through standard and green initiatives,
- Enhancing food safety,
- Developing new/improved seed varieties and specialty crops,
- Controlling pests and diseases,
- Creating organic and sustainable production practices,
- Establishing local and regional fresh food systems,
- Expanding access to specialty crops in underserved communities,
- Developing school and community gardens and farm-to-school programs,
- Enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crop farmers, including Native American and disadvantaged farmers.
Interested applicants should apply directly to their state department of agriculture. Several states have already published their requests for proposals, and the list of FY 2014 State Requests for Proposals is available on the AMS website. For more information, visit the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program website.