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TDA Now Accepting Proposals for Specialty Crop Block Grants

Thursday, April 04, 2013 | 07:38am

NASHVILLE - The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is now accepting proposals for the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. These federal funds are granted to enhance production and competitiveness of specialty crops, which include fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, tree nuts and nursery crops including floriculture. The grants are authorized through the federal Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 and are administered by TDA.

“Crop and income diversity are key elements for success as we work to grow rural economies in Tennessee,” said Ed Harlan, TDA assistant commissioner for Market Development. “Specialty crops are by definition crops that are not common or traditional to our producers. These crops are increasingly important to stable growth for agriculture related businesses, however.  Specialty crop grants can fund innovation, research and training to allow our producers and agriculture related businesses and organizations to improve, expand and try new income avenues with less risk.”

TDA officials anticipate the state will be eligible for about $480,000 in federal SCBG funds to support grower education, infrastructure, food safety and marketing. Universities, institutions, cooperatives, producers, for-profit industries or community-based organizations may submit proposals for project funding, but all fund recipients must be recognized by the IRS and must provide benefit to more than a single organization, institution or individual. Demonstration of long-term benefits is also required.

Submitted proposals must align with one of three categories: good agricultural practices (GAPs), food safety, and traceability; farmers markets and wholesale produce; or innovative specialty crop projects. Proposals must be received by TDA no later than May 17. Specific proposal requirements and other information can be found at www.tn.gov/agriculture/marketing/produce.html.

Once received, proposals are reviewed and ranked according to criteria provided at the website. Applicants will be notified by June 28 whether TDA intends to present their projects to USDA for funding. First time recipients of SCBG funds have a funding limit of $25,000. 

Proposals for food safety and traceability could include GAP training, specialized equipment and facilities needed to incorporate GAPs, Good Management Practices (GMPs) or tracing specialty crops to their sources. Examples of appropriate farmers markets and wholesale produce projects include proposals for improved produce cool storage, distribution and handling. 

The more generalized category for innovative specialty crop projects allows proposals for on-farm efforts to enhance marketing, production, packing and/or distribution of specialty crops. Such projects might include improving nutrition to food deserts through specialty crop distribution, or projects which improve, enhance, or reduce costs associated with distribution of specialty crops.

For more information regarding the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, contact Stan Alderson at 615-837-5160 or email stanley.alderson@TN.gov.

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