September 8, 2015
Federal grant funding totaling $3 million in funding is now available through the new Specialty Crop Multi-State Program (SCMP). The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a press release on Friday, September 4, 2015 and a Request for Application this week. The SCMP will provide funds to State departments of agriculture on a competitive basis to make awards to collaborative, multi-state projects that address one of the following regional or national level specialty crop issues:
AMS will give priority to proposals where the main project activities fall under the following project types: food safety; plant pests and disease; and research.
In particular, USDA is encouraging proposals that will:
Of those proposal categories, only the the first one – projects dealing with FSMA training and education – will receive priority ranking points in the grant review and evaluation process.
Administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), SCMP is aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops like fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. The funding amount available consists of $1 million which had not been awarded in FY 2014 plus an additional $2 million allocated for FY 2015. Funds not awarded will be rolled over into the next fiscal year. The minimum award is $250,000 and the maximum award is $1,000,000. Cost share or match (cash or in-kind) is encouraged but not required.
A SCMP project must involves at least two partners located in different states. Project partners can include, but are not limited to: State departments of agriculture, State agencies, tribal governments, land grant or State universities or colleges, specialty crop producer organizations, non-profit organizations, and community-based organizations.
While the multistate projects can be broad partnerships of NGOs, colleges and universities, and agencies, the only entities eligible to submit SCMP proposals are “Participating State departments of agriculture” in the 50 States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
State departments of agriculture must notify USDA by September 30, 2015, if they would like to be designated as a Participating State department of agriculture who will help administer SCMP projects, such as handling inquiries from the public, developing internal procedures to screen applications for eligibility under the RFA, and accepting administrative responsibility for those applications ultimately selected for funding.
A Participating State department of agriculture that develops its own proposal can submit it directly to AMS along with other proposals determined to meet the RFA requirements. Non-participating State departments of agriculture must submit their proposals to a Participating State department of agriculture, which will submit the proposal to AMS if it meets the RFA requirements. An entity other than a State department of agriculture may develop a SCMP proposal, but only a Participating State department of agriculture may submit the proposal to AMS.
SCMP applications must be submitted by the participating state department of agriculture to USDA via www.grants.gov by January 14, 2016.
SCMP and Food Safety Training and Outreach
Created in the Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill), the SCMP has been highly anticipated to include food safety among the areas to be funded, and for its potential to help farmers and local and regional food processors develop and follow food safety practices that will comply with the regulations the Food and Drug Administration will soon be releasing under FSMA. Because the only source of dedicated funding for food safety training, education, and outreach — the Food Safety Outreach Program — is currently in the early stages of establishing infrastructure to coordinate food safety training grants through national and regional centers, the SCMP can serve as a critical and more immediate source of funding for projects serving the food safety training and outreach needs of producers and local and regional food processors.
Among the types of projects that may be funded by SCMP are those that:
In November 2014, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) submitted comments in response to an AMS call for public comments on the SCMP RFA. AMS provides a summary of all comments submitted in the fall 2014 in the current RFA, along with their response.
AMS did not adopt NSAC’s recommendations to dedicate at least half of the funding available to food safety training and outreach, nor to provide priority points for projects that target small and mid-sized family farms, or that focus on assistance to beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers and ranchers. The RFA also does not require partnerships between states and non-governmental and community-based organizations as NSAC had recommended. We are disappointed these recommendations to focus attention on farms and other businesses most vulnerable to the impacts of the new food safety requirements. We are glad, however, that food safety projects are accorded additional priority ranking points.
We are also pleased to see the adoption of other NSAC recommendations, including allowing projects to:
For More Information
AMS will hold a teleconference on Sept. 16, 2015, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time to discuss the RFA and take questions. Call in number: 1-888-844-9904; Access Code: 1589536
Opportunity to Comment on the RFA
AMS seeks public comments on the SCMP RFA. Written stakeholder comments on the current RFA (to help inform the next RFA) are due by January 14, 2016, to: Janise Zygmont, Specialty Crop Multi-State Program, Grants Division, Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA, STOP 0267; 1400 Independence Avenue, SW; Washington, DC 20250-0267; or via e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.