Specialty crops across the state will soon benefit from federal grant funds that have been awarded to organizations that promote the growth of the specialty crop sector.
USDA has awarded $239,466 to the Kansas Department of Agriculture through the Specialty Crop Block Grant program. The program will provide funds to support a number of horticulture products including fruits and vegetables, turf grass, tree nuts, dried fruits, nursery crops and flowers, KDA will be responsible for passing the funds through to groups promoting those products.
"The financial resources provided from this grant will help the specialty crop sector of Kansas agriculture expand production, increase education, awareness and training, and provide increased opportunities for consumers to identify and purchase Kansas products," said Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman. "
The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is administered by the Agricultural Marketing Services and is tasked primarily with promotion of specialty crops and increasing opportunities for growers. It has awarded more lthan $293 million since 2009 and is part of USDA's integrated approach to programs and policies that stimulate food and agriculture-based community economic development.
All 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, American Samoa and Guam received grants this year, totaling $52 million.
In Kansas, a total of eight programs will benefit from the grants. They are:
1. Kansas Department of Agriculture GAP Auditor, $5,658 to improve specialty crop production food safety practices and increase the number of specialty crop producers seeking and attaining Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification by training a state employee to be a GAP auditor;
2. Using Technology to Connect Kansas Specialty Crops and Consumers, $54,507, to create awareness about Kansas specialty crops and products available online through the "From the Land of Kansas Market" program by providing an on-line retail store that would offer specialty crop producers access to post their available products without the need to spend personal capital to invest in their own marketing site and allow buyers to purchase their products. Matching funds will be utilized to cover expenditures for non-specialty crops;
3. Kansas Rural Center "From Tunnel to Table," $34,130, to partner with the Kansas Rural Center to increase Kansas specialty crop producers' knowledge of options and decision making criteria needed to incorporate poly-tunnel solutions on their farms by producing a thoroughly researched poly-tunnel comparison and resource guide, farm decision-making tool, and a series of regional on-the-ground workshops that demonstrate the different poly-tunnel options available;
4. Highland Community College 2014 Viticulture and Encology Extension Project, $34,750, to partner with Highland Community College to help the Kansas grape and wine industry to grow and improve fruit and wine quality through consultations and educational workshops and make planting grapes more cost and time efficient through the use of a vine transplanter;
5. Shared Incubator Kitchen at K-State Olathe, $60,360 to partner with Kansas State University, Olathe to increase the value of specialty crops in Kansas thru commercialization of new food products that would benefit both growers and consumers by establishing a shared-use incubator kitchen for specialty crop entrepreneurs to create local value-added specialty crop products, promote local foods, facilitate grower education, and enhance public access to local specialty crop foods;
6. Education and Assistance to Expand Kansas Vineyards, $25,530, to partner with the Kansas Grape Growers and Winemakers Association to help expand Kansas wine/grape vineyards and increase Kansan wine/grape grower knowledge of wine/grape production by educational workshops, informational sessions on available micro-loans, networking opportunities, and cost share monies for growers to purchase vines for planting;
7. Grant Administration, $24,642, to perform pre-award and post-award activities to administer Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funding and ensure that the State Agency and sub-awardees abide by Federal and State requirements and regulations.
Grants were available to projects involving research, nutrition, trade enhancement, food safety and security, pest and disease, education, "buy local" programs, promotion, marketing, more efficient and cost-effective distribution systems, environmental and conservational concerns, product development and developing cooperatives.