Deadline nearing for specialty crop grant applications

BISMARCK – The deadline for applications for the 2012 Specialty Crop Block Grant is less than two weeks away.

“USDA's Agriculture Marketing Service has awarded North Dakota $614,000 to promote the production, processing and use of specialty,” said Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. “The North Dakota Department of Agriculture (NDDA) will distribute these funds through a competitive grant program. We encourage organizations, institutions and individuals to submit proposals on their own or in partnerships.”

Grant funds can only be used for projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops or that benefit a specialty crop industry as a whole.

“Investing in specialty crop research, enhancing food safety, developing new and improved seed varieties, reducing distribution costs, developing pest and disease control strategies and developing local and regional food systems are just some of the eligible applications for this money,” he said. “Projects that directly benefit specific, commercial products or profit a single organization, institution, or individual are not eligible.”

USDA defines specialty crops as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.” Specialty crops now grown commercially in North Dakota include dry beans, dry peas, lentils, potatoes, grapes, honey and various vegetables.

Goehring said an information manual with application instructions, scoring criteria and an application template can be found on NDDA's website: www.nd.gov/ndda/program/specialty-crop-block-grant-program.

Applications must be submitted by e-mail by April 20. NDDA personnel and a select committee will review and score the applications and then forward them to USDA for final approval. The grants will be awarded in October.

The maximum grant amount is $100,000.

Goehring said more information is available by contacting Emily Edlund at (701) 328-2191 or edlund@nd.gov.