The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recently announced the funding allotments for the 2017 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. California was provided with $19.2 million from the nearly $60.6 million that was awarded nationwide.
The program provides grant funding to various state departments of agriculture for projects designed to enhance the competitiveness of the specialty crop industry. USDA defines specialty crops as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops, which include floriculture.
Grant recipients were selected through a competitive process and grant amounts ranged from $50,000 to $450,000. Recipients of the funding included government entities, various types of organizations, along with colleges and universities.
There were 54 projects selected because of their benefits to advancing California grown specialty crops. Many projects were aimed at increasing production along with consumption by way of improving the availability of products. Funding was also provided for the expansion of the consumer market through providing better nutritional education.
Money from the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program was also used for grower training. Multiple disciplines of research were also funded, including further development of organic and sustainable production practices, along with pest control and disease study.
Grant awards also addressed workforce concerns throughout the supply chain. Funding for employee training on new technologies, along with assistance in meeting new labor regulations was provided. Some projects were also designed to help attract skilled and unskilled workers to farming operations.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture is still accepting proposals for the 2018 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. Proposals must be submitted before 5 p.m. on Friday, October 13, 2017.