The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $72.4 million awarded through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP), authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, to support farmers growing specialty crops, including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and nursery crops. SCBGP non-competitively provides grant funding to the departments of agriculture in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five U.S. territories. The 56 grant recipients fund research, agricultural extension activities and programs to increase demand for agricultural goods of value to farmers in their respective state or territory.
SCBGP recipients include the Colorado Department of Agriculture, which partnered with Colorado State University to develop sustainable orchard management strategies that improve the economic aspects of tree fruit production in western Colorado. Additionally, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with the Center for Rural Affairs and the University of Nebraska—Lincoln Bee Lab, is using SCBGP funding to test the effectiveness and production of alternative hive structures, which will educate new and existing beekeepers on alternative hive structures for production and honey bee health.
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) supports U.S. food and agricultural products market opportunities, while increasing consumer access to fresh, healthy foods through applied research, technical services and Congressionally-funded grants.
California received $22.9 million out of the approximately $72.4 million awarded nationwide. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) will fund 69 projects, awarding grants ranging from $50,000 to $450,000 to non-profit and for-profit organizations, government entities, and colleges and universities. Selected through a competitive process, these projects focus on increasing sales of specialty crops by leveraging the California Grown identity; increasing consumption by expanding the specialty crop consumer market, improving availability, and providing nutritional education for consumers; training growers to equip them for current and future challenges; and conducting research on conservation and environmental outcomes, pest control and disease, and organic and sustainable production practices.
CDFA solicited fixed amount awards to fund projects that address priorities in two areas: 1) the priority to assist California’s specialty crop growers, farmers, producers, and manufacturers in adopting the requirements of and meeting the standards for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act; and 2) the priority to address workforce concerns throughout the specialty crop supply chain, including conforming to labor regulations, securing skilled and unskilled workers, improving labor use efficiency through new technologies, and training the existing workforce in the use of technology.
In keeping with California Governor Gavin Newsom’s vision of a “California for All,” CDFA introduced a Limited Request for Proposals program for non-profit organizations and tribal governments with knowledge and experience in either supporting socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers, or improving access and nutrition education in underserved communities.
CDFA continued its partnership with the Center for Produce Safety in the evaluation and recommendation of food safety related projects. These projects represent an ongoing effort to address food safety practices and minimize outbreaks of foodborne illness with proactive research.