Funding increased for specialty crop grants

BISMARCK – Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring says a near seven-fold increase in North Dakota's share of specialty crop development funds should encourage more farmers, ranchers, food companies, researchers and others to get involved in specialty crop production and processing.”

“I have been informed by USDA that North Dakota will receive $3.1 million dollars for specialty crop grants,” Goehring said. “That is a substantial increase over last year's $483,000.”

Goehring said the increase in funding is a result of the new Farm Bill, which emphasized specialty crops.

Goehring said the North Dakota Department of Agriculture (NDDA) is now accepting applications for 2014 Specialty Crop Grants.

“Projects that promote the production, processing and use of specialty crops in the North Dakota are eligible for these grants,” said. “Organizations, institutions and individuals are encouraged to submit proposals on their own or in partnerships.”

“Eligible applications include developing new and improved seed varieties, reducing distribution costs, investing in specialty crop research, enhancing food safety, pest and disease control and development of local and regional food systems,” 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.” Specialty crops grown commercially in North Dakota include dry beans, dry peas, lentils, potatoes, confection sunflowers, 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 in electronic form by 4 p.m., Friday, May 23, 2014. An external review committee will review and score the applications. The successful applications will be forwarded onto the USDA for final approval. The grants will be awarded in late fall/early winter.

Projects funded by the grants must be completed within 18 months.

Goehring said persons needing more information should contact Emily Edlund at (701) 328-2191 or edlund@nd.gov.