Ag Department Invites Proposals for Federal Grants to Strengthen Market for Vegetable, Fruit, Nut, Nursery Specialty Crops

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HARRISBURG, PA — The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture reports that it is accepting proposals for projects to increase the visibility and competitiveness of the state’s horticultural specialty crops including fruit, vegetable, nursery, flower, and nut products. Proposals, due January 28, 2022, are for the federal Specialty Crop Block Grant program, which is administered by the state.

“Pennsylvania’s specialty crops are among the world’s finest,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “These grants increase profits and sustainability for our growers by increasing the quality of and demand for their products, protecting crops from pest, disease and climate threats, and helping them retain, recruit and train the workforce they need to grow their businesses and keep feeding Pennsylvania and the world.”

Proposals are the first step in a two-part competitive process for the federal Specialty Crop Block Grants authorized under the federal Farm Bill. Commodities that meet the definition of specialty crops include horticultural products such as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, culinary herbs and spices, medicinal plants and nursery crops.

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In 2021, the USDA funded 13 Pennsylvania projects totaling $1,055,540 million of the $72.9 million awarded nationwide, plus an additional $1.4 million to fund projects awaiting final approval. The 13 projects funded to date included those that will grow the state’s agriculture industry by improving food safety; battling disease, pest and climate threats to potatoes, mushrooms and other crops; expanding wholesale opportunities and farm market sales; assessing economics of growing hops to meet demands of the state’s booming craft brew industry; harnessing the talents of youth and recruiting and retaining a culturally and ethnically diverse workforce.

Applicants for 2022 grants must submit a full proposal for projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops through nutrition education, technology and trade innovation, conservation, pest and disease management research, food safety or food security enhancement, good handling practices, or organic and sustainable practices.

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Requests may be made for a minimum of $20,000, provided the amount reasonably represents the cost of the intended project. Each project must have measurable outcomes demonstrating how it benefits the specialty crop or consumers, rather than a single organization, institution or individual. Single organizations, institutions and individuals are encouraged to participate as project partners.

Full proposals must be received by 4:59 PM on January 28, 2022. Applications can be submitted to the PA Department of Community and Economic Development’s Electronic Single Application for Assistance at esa.dced.state.pa.us.

Information, eligibility and detailed application instructions can be found at agriculture.pa.gov.

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