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Call your State Dept of Ag to learn about Specialty Crop Block Grants

February 3, 2010


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In 2007, part of Washington State’s block grant went to fund an initiative led by the Organic Seed Alliance to start a producer-led organic seed cooperative in Washington State.

Today’s Federal Register included a Notice of Funds Available (NOFA) for Specialty Crop Block Grants (SCBG). These funds go out to state Departments of Agriculture for programs that enhance the competitiveness of “specialty crops” For those not well-versed in the lingo, specialty crops include fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).

Applications are submitted by state Departments of Agriculture, but these agencies generally work in collaboration with multiple partner organizations. To learn more about how your state plans to use Block Grant funding, or to propose a project,

contact your state Department of Agriculture.

The NOFA announces $55 million dollars to be distributed in 2010. Applications will be accepted now through July 29, 2010. Projects should pertain to one of the following areas:

  • Increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops;
  • improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems;
  • assisting all entities in the specialty crop distribution chain in developing ‘‘Good Agricultural Practices’’, ‘‘Good Handling Practices’’, ‘‘Good Manufacturing Practices’’, and in cost-share arrangements for funding audits of such systems for small farmers, packers and processors; or
  • investing in specialty crop research, including research to focus on conservation and environmental outcomes; enhancing food safety; developing new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops; pest and disease control; and development of organic and sustainable production practices.

The NOFA also gives a shout-out to the USDA’s attention to local and regional food systems; the document states that states’ plans to increase the competitiveness of specialty crop farmers “may include developing local and regional food systems and improving food access in underserved communities.”

In previous years, states have taken advantage of this opportunity to develop projects to study local food systems and strengthen local marketing for specialty crop producers. For example, in 2007, Georgia Organics in Atlanta, GA received a $20,000 of the state’s Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) to launch a number of projects, including a “Buy Local” campaign and Georgia food guide.

For up-to-date information on USDA grants and programs, including requests for applications and deadlines, check out our quick-guide to farm bill programs and grants.


Categories: Local & Regional Food Systems


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