Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey on February 3 announced the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship is accepting grant applications for the Specialty Crop Block Grant program for 2014. The grants are available to support projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops grown in Iowa.
Final funding level for the program will be established by the new federal farm bill, which hasn't yet been finalized by Congress or signed by the President. As a result, the amount Iowa and other states will receive through the program is yet to be determined, but preliminary indications are funding will increase from previous years. The Specialty Crops Block Grant Program is administered by the USDA Ag Marketing Service.
"The Specialty Crop Block Grant provides funds to support food safety, research and marketing efforts that will encourage Iowans to choose the products that are produced right here in our state," Northey says. "Specialty crops are a very important part of Iowa agriculture as they allow farmers to diversify and give customers access to locally grown products."
Grant funding to enhance competitiveness of specialty crops
Funds shall be used for projects that solely enhance competitiveness of specialty crops that benefit the specialty crop industry as a whole and will not be awarded for projects that directly benefit a particular product or provide a profit to a single organization, institution or individual. Iowa agencies, universities, institutions and producer, industry and community based organizations are all eligible to apply for funding to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. In addition, single organizations, institutions and individuals are encouraged to participate as project partners.
Grant awards will be considered up to a maximum of $24,000 and projects can have a duration of up to 30 months (2½ years). "Specialty Crops" that are eligible under this program are fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. Both fresh and processed specialty crops are eligible.
Proposals must be received by IDALS on or before 4:00 p.m. on Friday, May 2, 2014. For more information visit the IDALS Specialty Crop Block Grant program at the Department's website.
Iowa Department of Ag establishes a committee for grant proposals
The state ag department is also establishing a Review Committee to help review, evaluate, and make recommendations on grant proposals submitted to the department.
Anyone who is interested in participating in the Review Committee should have knowledge of specialty crops, and/or grant writing or grant management experience, and the ability to devote the necessary time to complete the review process. Additional information about reviewer responsibilities, meeting dates and an application form can also be found here.
Applications to participate in Reviewer Committee are due March 28, 2014 by 4 p.m.
Submit public comments on specialty crops program priorities
In addition, to ensure that funds are used in the most efficient manner possible, the state ag department is asking specialty crop stakeholders and organizations to submit public comments on program priorities. The comments will help the department identify priorities, establish the criteria used to evaluate the projects proposed for funding, and to determine how the reviews are conducted.
Iowans interested in submitting comments about the program can do so online by emailing [email protected] or by mail to Horticulture and Farmers Market Bureau, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship, 502 East 9th, Des Moines, Iowa, 50319. Comments received by May 2, 2014 will be presented to the review committee to assist in prioritizing projects.
"The Specialty Crop Block Grant program has been a tremendous benefit to Iowa and it is important we understand the priorities of the specialty crop producers as we consider this year's applications," Northey says. "The public comments will allow us to hear from all segments of Iowa's specialty crop industries and give them a means to participate in the decisions surrounding this program."