The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is now accepting applications for $4.2 million in federal funding for specialty crops, Agriculture Commissioner Adam H. Putnam announced.
The grant, from the USDA, will be awarded to nonprofits, producers, academic institutions, government agencies and others to fund projects that will enhance the competitiveness of Florida’s specialty crops, which include fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, horticulture and nursery crops.
The 2013 Florida Specialty Crop Block Grant Program will accept applications for projects on the following issues:
- Enhancing food safety
- Developing new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops
- Pest and disease control
- Development of organic and sustainable production practices
- Improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems
- Increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops
- Investing in specialty crop research, including research to focus on conservation and environmental outcomes
- Assisting all entities in the specialty crop distribution chain in developing “Good Agricultural Practices,” “Good Handling Practices” and “Good Manufacturing Practices”
- Developing cost-share arrangements for funding audits of such systems for small farmers, packers and processors
The following have been identified as funding priorities for the 2013 Florida Specialty Crop Block Grant Program:
- Projects with immediate benefit to the public or industry
- Address barriers to increase access, availability and consumption of Florida grown specialty crops at local institutional level through improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems
- Buy local programs for institutions, including schools, prisons, hospitals, restaurants and other businesses
- Increase access and availability of specialty crops for underserved populations
- Address issue of food deserts
- Increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge, consumption and access to Florida specialty crops, such as programs designed to facilitate purchase of specialty crops using federal food program benefits
- Increase the sales and marketability of Florida commercially grown specialty crops
Major considerations also include the overall economic benefit to the Florida specialty crop industry and whether the project makes good business sense and has a high likelihood of success.
The deadline to apply for a Specialty Crop Block Grant is April 12. Grant applications will be reviewed by the agency, along with members of an external review committee that is representative of Florida’s specialty crop industry. With federal approval, funded projects are anticipated to begin by January 2014.
For more information, visit http://freshfromflorida.com/grants/specialty_crop.html.