USDA Announces Specialty Crop Block Grant Fund Availability

      Posted On: June 2, 2009

WASHINGTON, May 29, 2009 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture invites state departments of agriculture in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to submit applications for grant funds under the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program-Farm Bill (SCBGP-FB).

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will award approximately $49 million in block grants to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops (including floriculture).

The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is authorized under Section 101 of the Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004 (7 U.S.C. 1621 note) and amended under Section 10109 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, Public Law 110-246 (the Farm Bill). SCBGP-FB is currently implemented under 7 CFR Part 1291 (published March 27, 2009; 74 FR 13313).

Each state that submits an application that is reviewed and approved by AMS will receive a minimum grant amount of one-third of 1 percent of $49 million. In addition, AMS will allocate the remainder of the grant funds based on the value of specialty crop production in each state in relation to the national value of specialty crop production using the latest available cash receipt data.

Instructions to apply for fiscal year 2009 grant funds were published in the May 22, 2009, Federal Register, or are available on the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program Web site at

Applications must be received starting May 22, 2009, and not later than August 26, 2009. For more information, call Trista Etzig at (202) 690-4942; or e-mail:

PLEASE NOTE: This year, in an effort make sure that federal funds were having the intended effect of promoting specialty crops (fruits, vegetables, herbs, etc.), the Specialty Crop Block Grant program funds can be used “solely” to promote specialty crops, which USDA defines here. FMC fully supports state department of agriculture use of SCBG funds for farmers markets… but please be aware that, more so than in past years,

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these federal funds can only be used for programs which promote defined specialty crops, not just farmers markets generally. As the FAQ document on the USDA web site says,

“To “solely“ enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops means that funds must only be used to enhance the competitiveness of eligible specialty crops. In the event that a project benefits other ineligible commodities, the State is required, in their application, to describe how they will ensure that funding is being used to “only” enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. The description may include the estimated percentage of the project that specifically benefits specialty crops as well as how project staff will use matching funds for the portion that does not. The State must maintain adequate documentation to show that the SCBGP-FB funding only enhances eligible specialty crop.”

Farmers markets may want to contact their state department of agriculture for more information about if and how this change will impact their access to SCBG funds.