AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry’s Bureau of Agriculture seeks Specialty Crop Block Grants program applications from Maine’s specialty crop industry, to present for funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The bureau anticipates awarding at least $500,000 in 2021.

The block grant program is specifically designed to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops, including floriculture.

Funds are awarded to programs through a competitive review process. Grant awards are for a one-year term. Applications may be resubmitted for consideration for additional funding in subsequent years.

Priority areas for the 2021 program include: enhanced food safety education, primarily concerning FDA rules regarding improved handling and processing of specialty crop; soil and biotic health to improve pest management and biodiversity; marketing Maine specialty crops to diversified and expanded markets, or that research potential market expansion efforts and strategies; or improving adaptation and increased resilience to climate-related crop disturbances in support of long-term farm business vitality and productivity.

“Our goal with this grant program is to help strengthen and grow Maine’s specialty crop production while nurturing local farming and food businesses,” said DACF Commissioner Amanda Beal, according to a news release from the bureau. “During the pandemic, demand for Maine-grown-and-produced food products increased markedly. This competitive grant opportunity will help farmers and food producers continue to meet ongoing demand.”

“The SCBG is also an excellent vehicle to advance important research about Maine crops, whether it be cropping systems or resiliency in the face of climate change,” said Nancy McBrady, director of the Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources. “We are excited to see what this new round of applications brings forward for advances in research.”

Agricultural organizations, educational institutions, commodity groups, municipalities, producers, and state agencies may download the 2021 block grant application online at maine.gov. The application deadline is Tuesday, March 30.

Maine’s 2020 block grant awards supported numerous projects, including expanding the berry industry to improve farm profitability, and integrated pest management for the state’s $500 million potato industry, using foliar fertilizers and soil amendments to enhance wild blueberry production and resilience.

For more information, consult the Request for Applications, and contact Leigh Hallett, agricultural resource development director, at [email protected].

filed under: