The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) is asking for additional flexibility when it comes to Specialty Crop Block Grants. NASDA has sent a letter to U.S. Acting Secretary of Agriculture Kevin Shea detailing the need for states to have more leeway under the grant program. Funds were recently made available for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
“Challenges impacting our food supply related to COVID-19 are still present and continued flexibility is needed,” NASDA CEO Dr. Barb Glenn said in the letter. “NASDA is seeking the assistance of your office in securing additional flexibilities from both USDA and the Office of Management and Budget to enable these funds to be used to enhance the ability of states to respond to COVID-19, specifically in support of specialty crops.”
Some of the flexibilities sought by NASDA include allowing for the repurposing of federal assistance awards to support COVID-19 response. Similar allowances issued by the Agricultural Marketing Service is also being sought in relation to exemptions for unallowable costs. Allowable cost examples from NASDA include food purchases, equipment, farmer support opportunities, and other expenses related to COVID relief. NASDA is also asking for the ability to extend funding beyond 2024. “The flexibility sought by states only applies for purposes of pandemic response and should not be viewed as a request for a permanent expansion of authorized expenditures under the SCBGP,” said Glenn.
NASDA emphasizes the added flexibility for Specialty Crop Block Grants is intended to address the immediate challenges created by COVID. Glenn suggests that increasing support and ability to address COVID may be required for the industry to remain viable and competitive. “In our discussions with USDA, congressional offices, and other stakeholders, it is clear that the additional emergency funding in support of specialty crop competitiveness is essential,” Glenn stated.