Cathy Jett is the assistant business editor at The Free Lance-Star, and specializes in covering the area's retail scene.
Grants available to help make Virginia’s specialty crops more competitive
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) is accepting applications for USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Specialty Crop Block Grant funds.
Agricultural associations, industry groups, community-based organizations and producer groups that seek to improve the competitiveness of specialty crops in Virginia are eligible to submit proposals for grants up to $30,000 per project.
VDACS will administer nearly $500,000 in funds for the development of Specialty Crop projects. Specialty crops are categorized as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery crops, including floriculture, that are not typically covered by traditional crop insurance. Processed foods are eligible as long as they enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops.
In awarding the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant funds, VDACS will give priority to projects with the sole purpose of enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops as they pertain to the following issues:
· increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops
· improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems
· assisting all entities in the specialty crop distribution chain in developing Good Agricultural Practices, Good Handling Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices
· investing in specialty crop research, including organic research to focus on conservation and environmental outcomes
· enhancing food safety
· developing new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops
· developing new and improved pest and disease control specifically for specialty crops;
· developing organic and sustainable production practices
· increasing the competitiveness of specialty crop farmers.
Guidelines, instructions and the application for the USDA Specialty Crop Competitive Grants are available online at vdacs.virginia.gov/marketing/scrop.shtml (click on Application Form to apply), via e-mail to email@example.com, or at VDACS, 102 Governor Street, Richmond, VA 23219.
The deadline for returning applications to VDACS is 5 p.m. April 17, 2013. The funding begins Oct. 1, and lasts for two years. Projects must be completed by September 30, 2015. Applicants should note that all funding is contingent upon final notice from USDA.