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NSAC Member Organizations Partner to Support Specialty Crops

October 9, 2014

On October 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced over $66 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants (SCBG) administered through state departments of agriculture.

The SCBG program provides state agriculture agencies with resources to support specialty crop growers through research, marketing, and production programs.  This year’s announcement was paired with the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) awards, where USDA awarded nearly $52 million for research and extension efforts.

The grants for the 2014 fiscal year will fund 839 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico.  Funding is distributed on a formula based on fruit and vegetable production.  Hence, California is the big winner, receiving $19.9 million — about 30 percent of the SCBG funding — to support 61 projects.  Florida received $4.6 million to support 34 projects and Washington came in third, supporting 28 projects with $4.3 million.

Over 80 percent of the projects were competitive grant programs, where state departments of agriculture partnered with other organizations.  The balance are direct programs of the state departments.

Around 24 percent of the projects address marketing and production while education and research each account for an additional 22 percent.  For a full breakdown of project type, view the state-by-state project report here.

NSAC Members Among Partner Organizations

A tip of the hat to the twelve NSAC member organizations who are partners on one or more projects receiving an SCBG award:

  • The Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) will partner with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to support the Market Enhancement for Small Organic Farmers (MESOF) project. “We are very excited to receive this award,” ALBA Executive Director Christopher Brown said. “It will enable us to make investments in staff and systems that are a long time in coming.  Market access is key to the long-term business viability of our farmers and MESOF will allow us to make the improvements necessary to more effectively bring their produce to market.”
  • The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association will work on three projects in North and South Carolina.  In North Carolina, CFSA will work on establishing a model for community-based, sustainable farmer-friendly, food safety quality management systems to help farmers meet buyers’ safety requirements.  Additionally, the group will work on Organic Farming Conservation Outreach Projects in North and South Carolinas to help farmers transition to certified organic production.
  • Dakota Rural Action By partnering with the South Dakota Department of Agriculture, Dakota Rural Action will help build specialty crop producer capacity to meet institutional demand by organizing regional meetings in schools. “Dakota Rural Action is excited to work with the South Dakota Department of Agriculture organizing specialty crop producers around their capacity to provide fresh local foods into institutions, specifically schools as a component of South Dakota’s Farm to School initiatives,” Dakota Rural Action Farm to School Coordinator Holly Tilton Byrne said.
  • Fay-Penn Economic Development Center will help promote local food consumption by monitoring farmers market produce sales and attendance, developing a local foods marketing plan, and educating citizens about local food health benefits.
  • Florida Organic Growers will promote local specialty crops to low-income residents at Florida farmers markets. “Florida Organic Growers will work with farmers markets throughout Florida to offer Electronic Benefit Transfer technology. We are grateful for the opportunity to create better access to fresh fruits and vegetables for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients,” Communications Director Jenni Williams said.
  • Georgia Organics will work on a training and marketing program to help meet growing demand for organic products in the state.  “This is the first time Georgia Organics and the Georgia Department of Agriculture are working together to specifically increase the number and acreage of Certified Organic farms in the state,” Director of Programs Michael Wall said.  “Demand is too big to ignore, so we’re finally working together to seize this economic opportunity that’s blowing up around the country for our farmers.”
  • The Illinois Stewardship Alliance will work to increase local specialty crop sales to restaurants, individuals, and other retail markets through outreach and cooking classes.  “The Specialty Crop Block Grant funding is especially valuable in Illinois where corn and beans dominate the landscape.  With this funding, we’ll be able to reach individual consumers, restaurant chefs and other markets to educate them about the availability of specialty crops in our region,” said Program Director Lindsay Record.
  • Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) will help fruit and vegetable producers understand organic regulations by providing written materials and presentations.  “Vendors and customers all seem to have a different understanding of terms such as organic, natural or sustainable,” Kristin Krokowski, Wisconsin Farmers Market Association Director, said.  “It makes it difficult for vendors to differentiate their products and for customers to have a clear understanding of production practices used by the farmer.  A clearer understanding of these terms and the associated practices will help agricultural producers gain a premium price for specialty products.”
  • The Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society will partner with the North Dakota Department of Agriculture to continue vegetable variety trials across North Dakota and Montana.  “We are looking forward to working with Montana State University’s Mac Burgess and the Montana growers to gain their insights on variety choices and also the stress test results that their locations will provide,” Project Coordinator Frank Kutka said.
  • Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) – New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts NOFA will provide technical support for organic specialty crop farmers and eventually provide fact sheets and host workshops on innovative strategies. Additionally, NOFA – Rhode Island will improve efficiency and profitability by providing organic advisors for certified operations.
  • Oregon Tilth will work on an analysis to identify challenges, opportunities, infrastructure needs, and strategies for organic producers.  Demand for organic produce continues to outpace supply,” said Chris Schreiner, Oregon Tilth’s Executive Director. “Working with partners across the supply chain, this project will help farmers understand specifically what crops are in high demand and help farmers conduct production and financial planning accordingly.”
  • Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) will organize field days, webinars, workshops, and conferences to improve recordkeeping and financial knowledge for farmers throughout the state.  PFI estimates that the projects will involve 35 farmers in research studies and expand recordkeeping and financial knowledge for 1,000 farmers.

More about SCBG

Launched in 2006 and authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, the SCBG program has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in thousands of projects across the country.  The program will receive $72.5 in mandatory funding through 2017 and $85 million a year starting in 2018.

SCBG projects can focus on a range 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.

Funding available for each state is calculated using a formula accounting for specialty crop acreage and production value. Only state departments of agriculture are eligible to apply, but farmers and organizations can apply for a state sub-grant by contacting their SCBG State Contact.

Categories: Grants and Programs, Local & Regional Food Systems

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