Specialty Crop Block Grants


Program Basics

The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) provides grants annually to assist State Departments of Agriculture in enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops (fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery crops). 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.

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 measurable outcomes for the specialty crop industry and/or the public.

Examples of project areas that would qualify for funds include, but are not limited to: food safety; food security; nutrition; trade enhancement; education; research; promotion; marketing; plant health programs; ‘‘Buy Local’’ programs; increased consumption; enhanced innovation; improved efficiency of distribution system; environmental concerns and conservation; product development; and cooperative development.

2008 Farm Bill Changes

The new farm bill replaces the authorization for appropriations for this program in previous law with mandatory funding.The minimum grant each State is eligible to receive under the program was amended from $100,000 to an amount that is equal to the higher of $100,000 or one-third of 1 percent of the total amount of funding made available for the fiscal year.  Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands were added as eligible States and the definition of specialty crops was expanded to include horticulture.

Section 10109 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (FCEA) of 2008 amends Section 3 and Section 101of the Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004, to be codified at 7 U.S.C. Section 1621 note.

Funding

The program has relied on appropriations every year since its inception, but with passage of the 2008 Farm Bill, will now receive mandatory funding.

Specialty Crop Block Grant Program Funding

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

$18.4 M^

$49 M

$55 M

$55 M

$55 M

The 2008 Farm Bill only provides $10 M in mandatory funding for FY 2008, but the program had already received $8.4 M in the FY 2008 Appropriations Bill under its old authorization for appropriations.  In FY2010, USDA awarded $55 million to 54 State Departments of Agriculture, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, to fund 827 projects.

Each State Department of Agriculture that submits an application that is reviewed and approved by AMS is guaranteed to receive a minimum of $100,000 or one-third of 1 percent of the total amount of funding available for the entire program for that fiscal year.The rest of the funds are then allocated to states based on the proportion of the value of specialty crop production in the state in relation to the national value of specialty crop production.

Please note:The funding levels in the chart above show the amount of mandatory funding reserved by the 2008 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 Committee decide to raid the farm bill to fund other programs under its jurisdiction.

Implementation Basics

 

Specialty Crop Block Grant funds are awarded through State Departments of Agriculture.  Individual entities apply to their State Department of Agriculture, which then applies for a full award through the SCBG Program.  More information about how the program works and what types of projects can be funded,  here

Examples of Past Grant Recipients

Connecticut Department of Agriculture
One of the ten projects the Connecticut Department of Agriculture funded with its $445,000 Specialty Crop Block Grant in 2010 was a partnership with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of 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.

Kansas Department of Agriculture

One of the seven projects the Kansas Department of Agriculture funded with the $103,000  it received in 2006 was a project working with 30 farmers’ markets and 5 five stands to develop a “Buy Fresh/Buy Local” campaign to promote the purchase of fresh, local foods including specialty crops.The project was carried out in partnership with the KansasRuralCenter.


Michigan Department of Agriculture

One of the 25 projects the Michigan Department of Agriculture funded with its $1,415,000 SCBG grant in 2010 was a project in partnership with Michigan Food and Farming Systems to teach specialty crop producers to implement food safety plans on their farms and prepare for food safety audits their buyers may require.


Washington State Department of Agriculture

One of the five projects the Washington Department of Agriculture funded in 2007 with the $182,000 it received was a partnership with the Organic Seed Alliance to develop a premium national market for specialty grown organic vegetable seed and launch a Growers Organic Seed Cooperative as a producer-owned business.


Additional Resources

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service website

Trista Etzig, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS, .