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Press Releases

February 8, 2024
VDACS Expects $550,000 in USDA Specialty Crop Block Grants Funding
Interested groups should submit specialty crop block grant applications before 5 p.m. on March 11
Contact: Michael Wallace

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) anticipates administering nearly $550,000 in USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Specialty Crop Block Grant funding to increase the competitiveness of Virginia specialty crops. Agricultural associations, industry and producer groups, localities, community-based organizations, educational institutions, and non-profits are eligible for this grant opportunity. Eligible groups must submit proposals for grants of up to $75,000 per project by 5 p.m. on March 11, 2024. Individual producers are not eligible for this grant.

Specialty crops are fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and nursery crops, including floriculture, that are not typically covered by traditional crop insurance. Specialty crops do not include standard commodities such as corn, wheat, soybeans, peanuts, cotton or tobacco. Processed foods are eligible, provided their development enhances the competitiveness of one or more specialty crops.

Specialty crop competitive grant proposals must be specific and explain how an association, industry group or organization will use the funds to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. Some examples include research, promotion and marketing plans, as well as food safety projects and projects that improve food access.

In awarding USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant funds, VDACS will give priority to projects that have the sole purpose of enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops as they pertain to the following issues:

  • Enhancing food safety.
  • Improving the capacity of all entities in the specialty crop distribution chain to comply with the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act and in cost-share arrangements for finding audits of such systems, including USDA GroupGAP, for small farmers, packers, and processors.
  • Investing in specialty crop research, including research to focus on conservation and environmental outcomes.
  • Developing new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops.
  • Improving pest and disease control.
  • Increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops.
  • Improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems.
  • Enhancing sustainability.

Guidelines, instructions, and the application for the USDA Specialty Crop Competitive Grants are available at www.vdacs.virginia.gov/sales-specialty-crop-competitive-grant-program.shtml, via e-mail to Janelle Otieno at janelle.otieno@vdacs.virginia.gov, or by mailing VDACS, Specialty Crop Block Grant Application, 102 Governor Street, Richmond, VA 23219.

Applications received after 5 p.m. on Monday, March 11, 2024, will not be considered for funding. The duration of each grant is two years, and the grant period will begin Oct. 1, 2024.

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