January 12, 2021

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has awarded nearly $1.2 million in 2020 USDA Specialty Crop Block Grants (SCBG) to 13 recipients across Minnesota.

The grant program aims to boost the competitiveness of specialty crops grown in Minnesota through marketing and promotion, research and development, expanding availability and access, and addressing challenges confronting producers.

“The future of Minnesota agriculture is diverse, and these grants lead to an increased capacity for a wider variety of profitable crops,” said MDA Assistant Commissioner Patrice Bailey. “That offers Minnesota farmers more paths to success, now and in the future.”

The MDA is now accepting 2021 SCBG applications through March 10, 2021. Applicants may request between $20,000 and $100,000 and projects may last up to two-and-a-half years. Questions may be directed by email to MDA.AGRIGrants@state.mn.us or by calling the MDA Grants Line at 651-201-6500.

2020 USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Awards

Grantee Organization Name Principle Investigator/ Project Coordinator Federal Award Amount Project Summary
Hmong American Farmers Association Dao Yang $98,445.50 This project focuses on training small-scale, immigrant Hmong farmers on best practice growing methods for ginger and low tunnel day-neutral strawberries, increasing regional availability and improving farmers’ economic returns.
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy Erin McKee VanSlooten $88,000.00 The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy will support and evaluate the implementation of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s pilot grant program reimbursing schools and early care providers for purchases from local farmers.
Minnesota Department of Agriculture Angie Ambourn, cooperator Brian Aukema $95,150.00 The exotic elongate hemlock scale was found in Minnesota on imported Christmas trees in 2018 and 2019. This project’s purpose is to determine the potential of this insect to survive in Minnesota and its impact on this important specialty crop.
Minnesota Department of Agriculture Paul Hugunin $100,000.00 This project increases sales of Minnesota specialty crops through statewide marketing, including search engine advertising, promoted social media posts and social media advertising, and specialty crop advertising in the printed Minnesota Grown Directory.
Minnesota Department of Agriculture Valerie Gamble $100,000.00 Produce Safety Program staff will help produce growers understand the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule by offering grower trainings at a reduced cost, and help growers implement on-farm food safety improvements through a mini-grant opportunity.
Minnesota Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association Beth Nelson $34,536.00 This project will screen for black rot (Xanthamonas campestris pv. campestris) resistant/tolerant cultivars of spring and fall broccoli to address the persistent black rot disease which has resulted in up to 90% yield loss for fresh market growers.
University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships Greg Schweser $100,000.00 This project seeks to expand the Deep Winter Greenhouses (DWG) production season by incorporating tomatoes for late spring/early summer markets. The project also includes a DWG tomato profitability analysis and outreach on DWG production.
University of Minnesota Extension Annalisa Hultberg $100,000.00 University of Minnesota Extension will provide Good Agricultural Practices education, materials, and technical assistance to Minnesota produce growers to reduce risks and increase market access and to schools to increase local produce purchasing and consumption in farm-to-cafeteria and school garden programs.
University of Minnesota Northwest Research and Outreach Center Ian MacRae $90,494.00 The project assesses and develops controls for mechanical, and biological factors that help spread Potato Virus Y, a disease limiting the yield and quality of seed potatoes and threatening the Minnesota commercial potato industry.
University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center Steven R. Poppe $81,490.00 Grass weed control in orchards and vineyards will be achieved without chemicals using high velocity abrasive grits derived from residues of Minnesota-based natural products.
University of Minnesota Alan G. Smith $99,924.00 This project will identify grower and consumer barriers to adoption of biotechnology (genetically engineered, or gene edited) improved specialty crops in Minnesota to reveal opportunities that improve efficiency and quality of specialty crop production.
University of Minnesota Eric Watkins $92,993.00 This project will make use of genomic approaches to improve a low-input turfgrass species, strong creeping red fescue, for enhanced sod forming ability.
University of Minnesota Matthew Clark $99,929.00 This project will explore high-throughput techniques for measuring fruit quality combined with genetic mapping to improve the efficiency of developing new cold hardy hybrid grapes and improve production practices and sustainability for Minnesota farmers.



Media Contact
Larry Schumacher, MDA Communications