Federal grants available for special crop industry

Beginning Wednesday, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture will seek project proposals from Indiana’s specialty crop sector for funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

“Specialty crops are big business in Indiana,” said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Indiana’s secretary of agriculture and rural development. “This unique sector is quite large in Indiana. After all, 80% of our state is farmland and forests. We are excited to use this federal funding to bolster our large specialty crop sector and research initiatives.”

The program offers funding annually to state departments of agriculture to support their specialty crop industries. This year, Indiana’s allocation is $484,966.

Eligible projects must enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture and nursery crops. For a list of eligible specialty crops, visit ams.usda.gov/services/grants/scbgp/specialty-crop.

Funding will not be awarded to projects that benefit a particular commercial product or provide a profit to a single organization, institution or individual.

Each project must identify at least one of the new USDA performance measures that specifically demonstrate the project’s impact on enhancing the competitiveness of eligible specialty crops.

The state is seeking projects that have objectives such as increasing consumption and consumer purchasing, increasing access and distribution, increasing food safety knowledge and processing, developing new seed varieties and improving environmental sustainably, among other things.

Applications that benefit smaller farms, new and beginning farmers, underserved producers, veteran producers and underserved communities are being encouraged to apply.

Applications are due by noon March 10. Proposals must be submitted online through the ISDA’s Grants Management System at in.gov/isda/grants-and-funding-opportunities.