TDA Now Accepting Proposals for Specialty Crop Block Grants

Monday, March 31, 2014 | 01:25 pm

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.

“Tennessee’s rural communities are home to a lot of smart, hardworking people who see opportunities for the future,” Ed Harlan, assistant commissioner for TDA Market Development, said.

“For experienced agricultural entities who want to take their operations to the next level, Specialty Crop Block grants can be the missing piece of the puzzle,” Harlan said. “The projects funded by these grants have the potential to create a positive ripple effect of success for rural economies.”

Universities, institutions, cooperatives, producers, industry or community-based organizations may submit a proposal for funding. Projects must directly impact multiple Tennessee producers. The purpose is to identify and support projects that are forward thinking with a positive, long lasting impact on Tennessee Agriculture. All fund recipients must be recognized by the IRS.

Submitted proposals must align with one of three categories: good agricultural practices (GAP), food safety, and traceability; farmers markets and wholesale produce; or innovative specialty crop projects. Proposals must be received by TDA no later than May 8. Specific proposal requirements and other information can be found at http://tn.gov/agriculture/marketing/scbg.shtml.

Once received, proposals are reviewed and ranked according to criteria provided on the website. Applicants will be notified by June 12 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 GAP, Good Management Practices (GMP) 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 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, email Tn.scbg@tn.gov.