VDACS announces Specialty Crop Block Grants available

Published 3:30 pm Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Groups seeking to improve the competitiveness of specialty crops in Virginia are eligible to submit proposals for grants up to $75,000 per project. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) anticipates administering nearly $600,000 in federally allocated funds for the development of specialty crops. The deadline for submitting applications is 5 p.m., Monday, March 21.

“Specialty Crop Block Grant funds are a great tool for implementing Governor Glenn Youngkin’s priorities of expanding local economic development opportunities and improving food access throughout the Commonwealth. As Virginia’s top private industry, agriculture continues to play a leading role in Virginia’s economy and these funds help further that effort,” said Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr.

Individual producers are not eligible for this grant. Agricultural associations, industry and producer groups, localities, community-based organizations, educational institutions, and nonprofits may submit applications to VDACS for United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service Specialty Crop Block Grants.

Specialty crops are 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, soybeans, peanuts, cotton or tobacco. Processed foods are eligible, provided their development enhances the competitiveness of one or more specialty crops.

Specialty crop competitive grant proposals must 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 and projects that improve food access.

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:

Enhancing food safety. Improving the capacity of all entities in the specialty crop distribution chain to comply with the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act and in cost-share arrangements for finding audits of such systems (including USDA GroupGAP) for small farmers, packers and processors. Investing in specialty crop research, including research to focus on conservation and environmental outcomes. Developing new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops. Improving pest and disease control. Increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops. Improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems and enhancing sustainability.

Guidelines, instructions and the application for the USDA Specialty Crop Competitive Grants are available online at https://www.vdacs. virginia.gov/sales-specialty-crop-competitive-grant-program. shtml, via email to Melissa Ball at melissa.ball@ vdacs.virginia.gov or by mailing VDACS, Specialty Crop Grants Application, 102 Governor Street, Richmond, VA 23219. Applications received after the 5 p.m. on Monday, March 21, will not be considered for funding. The duration of each grant is two years, and the grant period will begin on Oct. 1.