Specialty Crop Grants: Request for applications

farm-droughtThe Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is accepting applications for USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Specialty Crop Block Grant funds.

Agricultural associations, industry groups, community-based organizations and producer groups that seek to improve the competitiveness of specialty crops in Virginia are eligible to submit proposals for grants up to $30,000 per project. Although individual producers are not eligible, they may join with groups and organizations to apply for these grants. VDACS will administer nearly $500,000 in funds for the development of Specialty Crop projects.

The deadline for returning applications to VDACS is 5 p.m. April 17, 2013.  The funding begins October 1, 2013, and lasts for two years. Projects must be completed by September 30, 2015. Applicants should note that all funding is contingent upon final notice from USDA.

Specialty crops are categorized as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery crops, including floriculture, that are not typically covered by traditional crop insurance. Specialty crops do not include standard commodities such as corn, wheat or soybeans. A number of crops do not qualify for a specialty crop competitive grant, including cotton, feed crops (corn, hay, oats, barley), flax seed, food grains (rye or wheat), livestock and dairy products, eggs, oil crops (soybeans, sunflower seeds, canola), peanuts, range grasses, sod, tobacco, turfgrass, aquaculture or wild plants. Processed foods are eligible as long as they enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops.

“This is the seventh year we have called for proposals on specialty crop grants,” said VDACS Commissioner Matthew J. Lohr. “Through the years, we have seen many grant-funded projects or research yield positive long-term economic benefits for specialty crops. I encourage producer groups to take advantage of this opportunity to receive funding for projects that enhance the competitiveness of Virginia’s many specialty crops.”

Specialty Crop Competitive Grant proposals need to be specific and explain how an association, industry group or organization will use the funds to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. Some examples include research, promotion and marketing plans, as well as food safety projects.

In awarding the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant funds, VDACS will give priority to projects with the sole purpose of enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops as they pertain to the following issues:

·         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 and Good Manufacturing Practices

·         investing in specialty crop research, including organic research to focus on conservation and environmental outcomes

·         enhancing food safety

·         developing new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops

·         developing new and improved pest and disease control specifically for specialty crops;

·         developing organic and sustainable production practices

·         increasing the competitiveness of specialty crop farmers.

Guidelines, instructions and the application for the USDA Specialty Crop Competitive Grants are available online at

http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/marketing/scrop.shtml (click on Application Form to apply), via e-mail to melissa.ball@vdacs.virginia.gov, or at VDACS, 102 Governor Street, Richmond, VA  23219.

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