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USDA Announces 2010 Recipients of Specialty Crop Block Grants

September 29, 2010


On Friday, September 17th, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan announced the awards made under this year’s Specialty Crop Block Grant program.  The grants to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops are made in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops.  Program objectives included marketing and promotion, education, research, food production, food safety, and pest and plant health.

The grants, which are administered by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), total approximately $55 million and this year will fund 827 projects.

Of the total $55 million in funding for 2010, some 17 percent was retained by State Departments of Agriculture for their own projects and activities, while 82 percent were competitively awarded and 1 percent non-competitively awarded.

Project types for 2010 awards broke down as follows: 38 percent for marketing and promotion, 18 percent for education, 13 percent for research, 12 percent for pest and plant health, 10 percent for production, 4 percent for food safety, and 5 percent for “other.”

The full list of state-by-state funded project descriptions can be found here.

NSAC Member Organizations Win Awards

Congratulations to the 11 NSAC member organizations receiving block grant funding for 16 projects in 13 states:

  • Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (North Carolina) - to enhance the competitiveness of North Carolina specialty crop producers that serve the growing market for locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables through the identification of best management practices that specialty crop farms currently use to reduce the risk of pathogen contamination, work with researchers to validate the effectiveness of those best management practices, and disseminate information about those practices to the state’s small produce operations.
  • Dakota Rural Action (South Dakota) – to survey school food service directors to determine their interest in purchasing locally grown specialty crops in order to identify school districts interested in cooperating to develop Farm to School projects; hold a training event for school lunch directors and specialty crop producers interested in marketing to school lunch programs; and develop and distribute the 2011 South Dakota Local Foods Directory.
  • Ecological Farming Association (California) – to increase the implementation of science-based drought-management best practices among specialty crop growers through technical seminars and field days, partner with technical experts to develop a curriculum to deliver to existing producer networks, and work with technical support entities to increase funding for and delivery of water management support services.
  • Fay-Penn Economic Development Council (Pennsylvania) - to allow local farmers and food suppliers to showcase their specialty crops to local consumers in a community farm market setting; and educate the consumers regarding the health benefit to their families as well as the impact on their community’s local economy; matching funds will be utilized to cover expenditures for non-specialty crop commodities.
  • Georgia Organics (Georgia) – to address both the supply and demand side of the local food equation to increase the supply of locally grown, sustainably produced specialty crops by providing specialty crop producer education through mechanisms including an educational conference and enhancement of online resources
  • Illinois Stewardship Alliance (Illinois) – to expand a marketing campaign to increase sales and consumption of central Illinois specialty crops and enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops by providing product differentiation and product identification through an educational directory of producers, point-of-sale identification of local products, farmer profiles, and a series of events providing increased marketing opportunities for specialty crop producers.
  • Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (Minnesota) – to create new opportunities for Minnesota growers of fresh fruits and vegetables by expanding small farmers markets in Minneapolis that can provide a valued selling opportunity for immigrant and beginning direct market farmers and in daycare facilities serving low-income children.
  • Kansas Rural Center (Kansas) – to assist six farmers markets in developing electronic benefit transfer capacity in 2011; matching funds will be utilized to cover expenditures for non-specialty crop commodities.
  • Northeast Organic Farming Association (Connecticut) – to build on its educational and communications resources to educate farmers in the best practices for growing, storing, and marketing locally-grown, organic and sustainable winter specialty crops as well as provide educational resources for consumers to determine the availability, flavor, and nutrition of those fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
  • Northeast Organic Farming Association (New York) - to coordinate, publicize, and host 18 community supported agriculture (CSA) promotional fairs, where farms staff a table to explain their CSA and sell seasonal specialty crop shares to visiting consumers-in eight regions throughout New York.
  • Northeast Organic Farming Association (Vermont) – (1) to increase the amount of specialty crops sold through electronic benefits transfer (EBT) through the provision of a stipend, which will enable the staffing and promotion of specialty crops for food stamp recipients at fifteen farmers markets that have EBT machines, (2) to develop a series of seven on-farm workshops for new and aspiring vegetable farmers on important production and business-related practices, including soils and composting, organic plant disease management, organic weed control, food safety practices, on-farm energy production and conservation, marketing practices and strategies, and business and enterprise planning and analysis, (3) to conduct on-farm and winter conference workshops for vegetable producers, and (4) to facilitate several workshops in order to increase the consumption of specialty crops by children in Vermont schools by sharing best practices among school food service providers and other community partners.
  • Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (Oregon) – to increase the competitiveness of Idaho specialty crop growers by improving Potato Virus Y (PVY) control in potatoes and white mold in beans.
  • Practical Farmers of Iowa (Iowa) – to create a Community Supported Agriculture Mini-School, workshop on “Members as Partners”, and Community Supported Agriculture Distribution Webinar led by specialty crop farmer experts to equip specialty crop farmers with knowledge to create quality, sustainable community supported agriculture.

Next Round Already Started

Information about the FY 2011 Eligibility, Application Requirements, and Grant Management Procedures can be found here.  Check with your state department of agriculture for more information on applying; some state deadlines have already passed for FY 2011 grant funds.


Categories: Food Safety, Grants and Programs, Local & Regional Food Systems


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