By BENJAMIN KENNEY
Indiana State Department of Agriculture
The Indiana State Department of Agriculture has announced it is accepting applications for a total of $500,000 in expected federal funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant program.
The grant will come from the United States Department of Agriculture and will be available to nonprofits, producers, academic institutions, government agencies and others to fund projects that will enhance the competitiveness of Indiana’s specialty crops.
“Specialty crop production is a critical component to Indiana’s diversified agriculture industry,” ISDA Director Ted McKinney said. “These funds will provide an excellent opportunity to assist farmers and producers to advance and promote specialty crops in the local marketplace, healthy living, and job creation.”
The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service defines specialty crops as “fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.” Eligible plants must be intensively cultivated and used by people for food, medicinal purposes and/or aesthetic gratification. A list of specialty crops is available, along with a companion list of ineligible commodities, on USDA’s website.
Proposed projects should accomplish one or more of the following objectives:
- Increase child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops.
- Improve efficiency and reduce costs of distribution systems.
- Assist in developing “Good Agricultural Practices,” “Good Handling Practices,” “Good Manufacturing Practices,” and in cost-share arrangements for funding audits of such systems for small farmers, packers and processors.
- Invest in specialty crop research, including organic research to focus on conservation and environmental outcomes.
- Enhance food safety.
- Develop new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops.
- Improve pest and disease control.
- Promote organic and sustainable production practices.
ISDA will host a webinar on Monday, March 2, to provide more information on the grant as well as any additional technical inquires from application.