The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is encouraging organizations that benefit Minnesota fruit, vegetable, and other specialty crop producers to apply for Specialty Crop Block Grants to help increase the competitiveness of their crops in local, regional or global markets. Applications are due by 4 p.m. CST on Thursday, March 7, 2019. Grant projects can begin as early as November 1, 2019, and can take up to two-and-a-half years to complete.
Examples of projects include research on a disease or pest affecting a specialty crop, improving a distribution system, development of improved plant varieties, technical assistance to producers to increase profitability, and producer education on compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act requirements.
“Interest in passive solar deep winter greenhouses are growing among Minnesota farmers. The University of Minnesota's Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) have worked with pioneering deep winter greenhouse producers and University experts to develop an improved publicly available prototype design and lead production workshops for interested growers,” said David Schweser. “Cost of construction is still their main barrier to beginning a winter production enterprise. With Specialty Crop Block Grant funding, the RSDP will lead a new project to develop a new, more affordable design to reduce barriers to entry for small and medium sized farms.”
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines specialty crops as fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, tree nuts, horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture and processed products with 50% or more specialty crop content by weight. Nonprofit organizations, producer organizations, government agencies, universities, and other organizations involved in research, education, or market development of specialty crops are eligible/encouraged to apply. Eligible project costs include personnel, consultant and subcontractor services, supplies and materials, travel, equipment rental, special purpose equipment, and other costs necessary for completion of the project. Funding for these grants is through the USDA from the Farm Bill. Approximately $1.1 million is available for grants that range from $10,000 to $100,000.
Grant applications are submitted through our online application system. Additional information, including the Request for Proposal, funding priorities, questions and answers, and previously funded project summaries can be accessed from the Specialty Crop Grant website. Proposals that are approved by the MDA will be notified in April and included in MDA’s application to the USDA for a Specialty Crop Block Grant in May 2019.
David Van Amber, MDA Communications