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Specialty Crop Producers Can Apply for Grants
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 01/02/2018

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture will accept concept proposals through Jan. 25 for projects that increase the visibility and competitiveness of the state's fruit and vegetable, nursery, horticultural, and nut products in the marketplace.

The proposals are part of a two-phase competitive process for the federal Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill.

"Pennsylvania has a rich history of diversity in producing agricultural crops," said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. "That diversity makes our state's agriculture industry strong, and it offers us a competitive advantage. As producers develop innovative ways to meet consumers' emerging expectations, they help to position Pennsylvania as an industry leader poised for future success. Now, we're looking for innovative proposals that will further strengthen the position of our specialty crop growers in the marketplace."

Specialty commodities include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticultural products, culinary herbs and spices, medicinal plants, and nursery and floricultural crops.

In 2017, a total of 17 Pennsylvania projects were awarded nearly $970,000 in specialty crop block grants to improve food safety practices on farms; strengthen farm-to-school food systems through farmer outreach and education; investigate options to grow fruits, nuts and Christmas trees on coal mine spoils; take advantage of recent changes to the state's liquor code to promote locally made wines; and more.

Applicants must submit a concept paper for projects that describes how the grant would be used to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops through market development, technology innovation, food safety, nutrition knowledge, sustainable practices, and/or pest management.

Concept proposals should be approximately three pages long and should cover project purpose; estimated timeline; goals, objectives and expected measurable outcomes; work plan; and budget. Requests may be made for a minimum of $20,000, as long as the amount reasonably aligns with the cost of the proposed project. Completed applications must be received by 4 p.m. on Thursday, January 25, 2018.

Each project must have measurable outcomes for the specialty crop industry and/or the public -- rather than a single organization, institution or individual. Single organizations, institutions and individuals are encouraged to participate as project partners.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture administers the grant program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service. Concept proposals will be reviewed by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Successful applicants will be asked to submit a full proposal based on the concept paper; full proposals are due March 12.

To request a concept proposal application or more information about the grant program, contact Morgan Sheffield at 717-787-3568 or by email at, or visit and search "specialty crops."

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