Earlier today, Secretary Vilsack announced the Specialty Crop Block Grant awards totaling $55 million dollars. These grants will fund over 748 initiatives across the United States and its territories, and help expand opportunities for local and regional farmers.
Specialty crops produced in the U.S. include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, and are often a key source of income for America’s farmers. Through this program, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service grants money to the state and territory for them to directly support projects creating new business opportunities, boosting efficiency and productivity, and improving food safety.
Almost a third of the projects funded this year will focus on efforts to sell to local or regional markets, supporting producers and entrepreneurs that are looking to start or expand their businesses within their communities.
Projects, like the one in Wisconsin that will help off-set the costs of Good Agricultural Practices/Good Handling Practices audits, will help small and mid-sized businesses gain access to larger retail markets and provide pre-audit educational opportunities to local growers.
In Florida, the Red Hill Small Farm Alliance will help lower costs and address risks faced by farmers who sell directly to consumers by using an innovative web-based distribution system to connect producers to new customers and increasing public awareness of available products.
A project by the Churchill Economic Development Association (CEDA) in Nevada will create a centralized place for small scale farmers to jointly use planting, harvesting and packing equipment, giving them access to tools and facilities they typically wouldn’t have on their own. CEDA will also use the grant support to expand existing Fallon Small Farm Collaborative efforts to new markets in the state.
In Nebraska, the state Department of Agriculture is partnering with the Nebraska Forest Service to incorporate hybrid hazelnuts into profitable, sustainable, agricultural (or agroforestry) production systems. This will set the stage for full-scale commercialization, and an expanded market, by developing three types of commercial-quality hybrid hazelnut plants that are ready for field trials.
All of these investments are part of USDA’s commitment to increase opportunities for our specialty crop producers and small businesses. Whether it’s supporting research or marketing projects, USDA strives to help specialty crop farmers and businesses remain competitive in the marketplace. You can view a full list of this year’s awards at www.ams.usda.gov/scbgp.
An interactive view of USDA programs that support local and regional foods, including Specialty Crop Block Grant awards, is available at the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass.