Farm Progress

Groups promoting fruits, vegetables, nuts and flowers are urged to comment on program priorities and consider applying for funds.

December 27, 2017

3 Min Read
BUY FRESH, BUY LOCAL: Iowa’s specialty crops are an important part of Iowa agriculture. They allow farmers to diversify and give customers access to locally grown vegetables, fruits and other products.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship last week announced that applications are being accepted for grant funding through the Specialty Crop Block Grant program. The grants are available to support projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops grown in Iowa.

Final funding for the 2018 Iowa Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is yet to be announced by USDA’s Ag Marketing Service, which administers the program, but it should be similar to last year’s funding of $282,033.

“The Specialty Crop Block Grant funds can support food safety, research and marketing efforts to encourage Iowans to choose the products that are produced right here in our state,” says Mike Naig, Iowa deputy secretary of agriculture. “Specialty crops are a very important part of Iowa agriculture as they allow farmers to diversify and give customers access to locally grown products.”

Who should apply for these grants?
Grant funds shall be used for projects that solely enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops that benefit the specialty crop industry as a whole. Grants will not be awarded for projects that directly benefit a particular product or provide a profit to a single organization, institution or individual.

Iowa agencies, universities, institutions, and producer, industry, and community based organizations are all eligible to apply for funding to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. In addition, single organizations, institutions and individuals are encouraged to participate as project partners.

Deadline to apply March 2
Grant awards will be considered up to a maximum of $24,000, and projects can have a duration of up to 30 months. Specialty crops that are eligible under this program are fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. Both fresh and processed specialty crops are eligible.

Proposals must be received by IDALS on or before 4 p.m. March 2. For more information, visit the IDALS Specialty Crop Block Grant program.

Review, evaluate, make recommendations
IDALS is again establishing a review committee to help check, evaluate and make recommendations on grant proposals submitted to the department.

People interested in participating in the review committee should have knowledge of specialty crops, or grant writing and management experience, and the ability to devote the necessary time to complete the review process. Additional information about reviewer responsibilities, meeting dates and an application form can also be found at the above website.

Applications to participate in the reviewer committee are due Feb. 6 by 4 p.m.

In addition, to ensure that funds are used in the most efficient manner possible, IDALS is asking specialty crop stakeholders and organizations to submit public comments on program priorities. The comments will help the department identify priorities, establish the criteria used to evaluate the projects proposed for funding and determine how the reviews are conducted.

Where to submit comments
Iowans interested in submitting comments about the program can email [email protected] or by mail to Horticulture and Farmers Market Bureau, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, 502 E. Ninth, Des Moines, IA 50319. Comments received by March 2 will be presented to the review committee to assist in prioritizing projects.

“The Specialty Crop Block Grant program has been a tremendous benefit to Iowa, and it is important we understand the priorities of the specialty crop producers as we consider this year’s applications,” Naig says. “The public comments will allow us to hear from all segments of Iowa’s specialty crop industries and give them a way to participate in the decisions surrounding this program.”

Source: Iowa Department of Agriculture




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