Iowa Receives Funds to Promote Specialty Crops

Iowa Department of Ag gets $103,000 grant to support alternative crops such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and flowers.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture has received a $103,000 grant from the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program for 2008 to promote alternative crops such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and flowers.

"Specialty crops are a very important part of Iowa agriculture as they allow farmers to diversify and give customers access to locally-grown products," says Bill Northey, Iowa secretary of agriculture. "These funds will support marketing and promotional efforts that will let Iowans become more aware of the products we have and encourage them to choose the products that are produced right here in the state."

The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program assists state departments of agriculture in enhancing the competitiveness of U.S-grown specialty crops. Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts and nursery crops, including flowers.

He says 40% of the grant will be distributed to eight specialty crop organizations for marketing and promoting efforts. The groups were awarded funds after submitting proposals through a competitive grants process. The remaining funds will be used by the state ag department to support promotion of specialty crops, producer education and staff and professional development and education.

The groups receiving funds and how they will be used are:

* Iowa Christmas Tree Growers Association--marketing the real Christmas tree industry
* Iowa Organic Association--promoting Iowa's organic products
* Mississippi Valley Growers Association, Inc.--floriculture and nursery crops promotion at the Bettendorf Farmers Market
* North Iowa Farmers Market (Mason City)--building for the future at North Iowa Farmers Market
* Springville Economic Development Corporation Downtown Farmers Market--enhancement of specialty products sales
* Drake Neighborhood Farmers Market (Des Moines)--specialty crops promotion project
* Belmond Area Farmers Market--Fresh & Local in Our Hometown Program
* Mahaska County Ag. & Rural Development (Oskaloosa): promoting Mahaska County's Farmers' Market

"The Iowa Ag Department is excited to partner with these groups to increase the consumption of locally-produced food and products here in Iowa," says Northey.

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