Specialty Crop Block Grants


Helping farmers who raise fruits, vegetables, and nuts with improved training, infrastructure, and marketing

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!

 

Program Basics

SCBGP has been supporting specialty crop producers and consumers since 2006. Projects can focus on a variety of outcomes, including:

  • Increasing nutritional knowledge and specialty crop consumption;
  • Improving efficiency within the distribution system;
  • Promoting food safety and good agricultural, handling, and manufacturing practices while encouraging audit cost-sharing for small farmers and processors;
  • Supporting research, developing improved seed varieties, and controlling pests and diseases;
  • Creating organic and sustainable production practices;
  • Establishing local and regional food systems and “Buy Local” programs;
  • Developing school and community gardens and farm-to-school programs; and
  • Expanding access to specialty crops in underserved communities.

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.

Eligibility

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 more than $285 million to enhance the competitiveness of and increase the consumption of specialty crops within the United States. In Fiscal Year 2013 alone, SCBGP funded 694 projects in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories. Of those 694 projects, 26 percent went to marketing and promotion projects, 23 percent went to education projects, 16 percent went to pest and plant health projects, 15 percent went to research projects, 8 percent went to food safety projects, and 6 percent went to production projects.

SCBGP funds have been used to:

  • Partner with the Community Alliance with Family Farmers to increase food safety on specialty crop farms by assisting beginning, minority, and direct-market specialty crop farmers in California with the implementation of food safety practices that will ensure that buyer and insurance requirements around food safety do not exclude these farmers from selling to stores, restaurants, or institutions.
  • Partner with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance to solicit commitments from chefs to make at least ten percent of their purchases from local specialty crop growers by assisting chefs to locate local farmers, developing a pilot project for online procurement by restaurants, and organizing chef-farmer networking events.
  • Partner with Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA to increase specialty crop growers’ risk management knowledge by providing education and further research on use of crop insurance and other methods of risk management, and for the refinement and submission of a direct market strawberry crop insurance policy to the USDA.

Descriptions of all the projects SCBGP has funded, organized by year and state, are here: SCBGP Awards 2006-2013 

How to Apply and Program Resources

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.

Program History, Funding, and Farm Bill Changes

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)
2014 $72.5
2015 $72.5
2016 $72.5
2017 $72.5
2018 $72.5
5 yr total $375
10 yr total $800

Authorizing Language

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 2014.