Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey last week announced that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is eligible to receive approximately $275,000 through the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. The federal grant funds are designed to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, which are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.
To ensure that funds are used in the most efficient manner possible, the state ag department is encouraging specialty crop stakeholders and organizations to consider submitting public comment. The comments will help the department identify priorities for the program; establish the criteria used to evaluate the projects proposed for funding; and to determine how the reviews are conducted.
Public comments must be received by IDALS by Feb. 18
"Understanding the priorities of the specialty crop producers is vital as we develop and implement creative and effective outreach efforts," Northey says. "The public comment period will allow us to hear from all segments of Iowa's specialty crop industries and give them a means to participate in the decisions surrounding this program."
Iowans interested in submitting comments about the program can do so online by e-mailing HorticultureAndFarmersMarkets@IowaAgriculture.gov or by mail to Horticulture and Farmers Market Bureau, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, 502 East 9th, Des Moines, Iowa, 50319. Comments received by Feb. 18, 2011 will be evaluated for inclusion in the Request for Proposals which will be released later in February.
For more information on the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program visit www.iowaagriculture.gov/Horticulture_and_FarmersMarkets/specialtyCropGrant.asp. This is the fourth of five Specialty Crop Block Grants authorized through the 2008 Federal Farm Bill (the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008).