Traditional farm bill commodity programs that support grain, oilseed, cotton, and milk production do not serve specialty crop producers, who provide the country with fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts. Specialty crops have benefited from federal marketing and research programs, but historically had not had a direct aid program within the farm bill. The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) addresses the desire for greater federal help for fruit and vegetable producers by providing grants to state departments of agriculture to support projects that enhance the competiveness of specialty crops. SCBGP funds can support a wide array of projects such as value-added processing businesses, food hub development, farmer food safety training, and farm to school initiatives.
Learn More About SCBGP!
SCBGP has been supporting specialty crop producers and consumers since 2006. Projects can focus on a variety of outcomes, including:
SCBGP provides grants on an annual basis to assist state departments of agriculture in enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops. To receive grants, states must submit an application to USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) outlining how the grant funds would be spent. Often, states partner with nonprofit organizations, producer groups, and colleges and universities to develop their application and administer the program. States can use the block grants to supplement state-run specialty crop programs and/or make grants available for projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops.
Only State Departments of Agriculture are eligible to apply for the block grants, though they often solicit ideas from or partner with nonprofit groups, producer groups, and colleges and universities to develop their applications. States often choose to re-grant a substantial portion of their funding. Sometimes, they award grants to pre-selected projects and sometimes states award grants through an open, competitive application process.
In most years, approximately three-quarters of states’ funds go to competitive grants. Eligibility for those state-issued grants is determined by the state. One notable limitation is that grant funds cannot be used to solely benefit a single organization, institution, or individual but rather must be used for projects that impact and produce measureable outcomes for the specialty crop industry and consumers.
The Program in Action
Since 2008, SCBGP has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to enhance the competitiveness of and increase the consumption of specialty crops within the United States. In Fiscal Year 2015 alone, SCBGP funded 755 projects in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories. Of those 755 projects, 22 percent went to marketing and promotion projects, 27 percent went to education projects, 20 percent went to research projects, 11 percent went to pest and plant health projects, 7 percent went to food safety projects, 7 percent went to production projects, and 6 percent went to other types of projects.
SCBGP funds have been used to:
Descriptions of all the projects SCBGP has funded, organized by year and state, are here: SCBGP Awards 2006-2016
To receive grants, states must submit an application and plan outlining how the grant funds would be spent. Each state then can use the funds to supplement state programs or make grant funds available for projects to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops.
Farmers or organizations interested in applying for a state sub-grant should contact your state department of agriculture to discuss project ideas. To find your state’s SCBGP contact, visit: SCBGP State Contacts.
For general information about SCBGP, visit the AMS SCBGP Website.
SCBGP was first authorized in the 2004 Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act but did not receive any discretionary funding until 2006 and did not receive any mandatory funding until 2008. The 2008 Farm Bill provided $55 million per year in mandatory funding to SCBGP. The 2014 Farm Bill increased mandatory funding again for SCBGP. The new bill funds the program at $72.5 million per year through 2017 and at $85 million per year starting in 2018. These levels represent a substantially increased level of funding than what was in the original Senate and House-passed farm, a sign of the growing clout of the specialty crop industry. The amount allocated to each state is based on a formula that considers specialty crop acreage and production value within the state.
Specialty Crop Block Grants Program Funding
|Fiscal Year||Total Funding (in millions)|
|5 yr total||$375|
|10 yr total||$800|
Please note: The funding levels in the chart above show the amount of mandatory funding reserved by the 2014 Farm Bill for this program to be provided through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation. However, Congress does at times pass subsequent appropriations legislation that caps the funding level for a particular year for a particular program at less than provided by the farm bill in order to use the resulting savings to fund a different program. Therefore, despite its “mandatory” status, the funding level for a given year could be less than the farm bill dictates should the Appropriations Committees decide to raid the farm bill to fund other programs under its jurisdiction. In addition, SCBG is subject to automatic cuts as part of an annual sequestration process established by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
For the most current information on program funding levels, please see NSAC’s Annual Appropriations Chart.
Section 10010 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 amends Section 101 of the Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004, to be codified at 7 U.S.C. Section 1621 note.
Last updated in October 2016.