AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is accepting proposals for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grants. Through the grant program, the department anticipates awarding approximately $600,000 in funding in 2020. The department’s Agricultural Resource Development division administers the program and is the point of contact for Maine applicants, according to a news release from the Maine department.

Since 2006, the grant program has awarded more than $6 million through the the department’s to support the growing number of specialty crop producers who are selling into local and regional markets. The program provides federal funding to projects identified as critical at the local level.

Each spring, the department accepts grant applications and evaluates proposals through a competitive process. The department submits the recommended proposals to the USDA, and approved projects typically start in the fall.

The USDA defines specialty crops as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops, including floriculture. The full list of eligible products is available on usda.gov.

Recent awards have supported research into new plant varieties, development of pest management strategies, technology innovations, school initiatives, marketing, and food safety projects. Past grants resulted in improved harvests of blueberries, potatoes, maple syrup, hops, honey, and other crops.

Commodity groups, agricultural organizations, educational institutions, municipalities, producers, and state agencies may be eligible, and new projects are welcome. Projects should enhance the competitiveness of Maine-grown specialty crops, which includes a wide range of potential projects.

According to Dr. Lily Calderwood, Extension Wild Blueberry Specialist Assistant Professor of Horticulture, SCBG funding is integral, “Without this funding, it would be much more difficult to maintain a top-notch research-based education program.” At University of Maine Cooperative Extension, SCBG funding in recent years supported integrated pest and crop management for Maine wild blueberry growers and processors.

SCB grants are federally funded and administered in Maine by the DACF. Awards are for one year only. However, applicants may reapply for consideration for additional funding in subsequent years. Annual reports, regular invoices, and project updates are requirements of the program.

Download the RFP and the application template at maine.gov/. Proposals are due by March 31.

filed under: