Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey recently announced that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will again be making grants available to help enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops grown in Iowa.
The state ag department is eligible to receive approximately $271,000 in grant funding through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program which is run by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. This is the last of five Specialty Crop Block Grants authorized through the 2008 Farm Bill (the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008).
"These funds are available 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."
Who can apply for these grants? What types of projects are eligible?
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 (2 ½ years).
Grant funds shall be used for projects that solely enhance the 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. "Specialty Crops" that are eligible under this program are fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.
Proposals must be received by IDALS on or before May 4; review committee is seeking members
Proposals must be received by IDALS on or before 4:00 p.m. on Friday, May 4, 2012. For more information visit the IDALS Specialty Crop Block Grant program at the state ag department's web site www.IowaAgriculture.gov/Horticulture_and_FarmersMarkets/specialtyCropGrant.asp.
The Iowa Department of Ag is also establishing a review committee to help review, evaluate, and make recommendations on grant proposals submitted to the department.
Those people who are 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 at www.IowaAgriculture.gov/Horticulture_and_FarmersMarkets/specialtyCropGrant.asp.
Applications to participate in the Reviewer Committee are due Friday, March 30, 2012 by 4 p.m.
Iowa Department of Ag is seeking your comments about this grant program
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 HorticultureAndFarmersMarkets@IowaAgriculture.gov or by mail to Horticulture and Farmers Market Bureau, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, 502 East 9th, Des Moines, Iowa, 50319. Comments received by May 4, 2012 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 and we consider this year's applications," Northey said. "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."