Can producers apply for specialty crop farm grants?

red apples on tree

If you’re like us at FarmRaise, you have a Google Alert on farm grants that has been delivering a lot of inbound lately on “Specialty Crop Block Grants”. Many producers in our FarmRaise community are located in states that specialize in specialty crops (see what we did there?), and this grant understandably perks up the ears of specialty farmers. Still, the way this program works can be confusing, so our team did some digging to understand if producers are eligible to apply for this program and if so, how to get the funding. 

Remind me, what are speciality crops? 

In the words of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service:

Specialty crops are defined by law as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture, nursery crops, including floriculture.” 

What exactly is the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program?

According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) was created to provide greater federal assistance to specialty crop producers by providing grants to state departments of agriculture to enhance the competitiveness of those crops. SCBGP funds can support a wide array of projects, such as locally and regionally focused specialty crop research, value-added processing businesses, food hub development, farmer food safety training, and farm to school initiatives.

Do state departments of agriculture apply for the SCBGP? 

That’s right. It turns out that only state agricultural departments can apply to the USDA for this funding. That said, states often use a big portion of the funds they receive to fund projects that support and grow the speciality crop industries in that state. 

So can producers apply to their state departments of agriculture for the SCBGP? 

They can, if they apply as a producer organization, non-profit, research entity, or other organization with a project proposal to benefit the whole industry rather than a single producer or org. 

How much are these grants? 

The 2018 Farm Bill allocated $85M annually in SCBGP funding to be split amongst the 50 states. It’s estimated that about 75% of state funding goes to competitive grants (which shakes out to about $1.3M in available funding on average per state). 

How can I get some of this funding? 

Every state has different calls for proposals, deadlines, and funding amounts. First things first: contact your Department of Ag for more intel on when SCBGP opens, how much funding is available, and any project specific criterion. They may even have ideas for initiatives that you could join, lead, or support. 

I’m still feeling kind of lost on this whole program

You aren’t alone out there! Sign up for FarmRaise Premium and we can strategize with you during office hours on what it takes to get involved with the SCBGP. We’re here to support you. 

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