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TALLAHASSEE — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced Thursday that approximately $4.4 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be awarded to nonprofits, producers, academic institutions and government agencies, among others, to fund projects that will enhance the competitiveness of Florida’s specialty crops. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) is now accepting applications for funding.
The 2012 Florida Specialty Crop Block Grant Program will accept applications for projects pertaining to the following issues:
• Increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops;
• Improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems;
• Assisting all entities in the specialty crop distribution chain in developing “Good Agricultural Practices,” “Good Handling Practices,” “Good Manufacturing Practices” and in cost-share arrangements for funding audits of such systems for small farmers, packers and processors;
• Investing in specialty crop research, including research to focus on conservation and environmental outcomes;
• Enhancing food safety;
• Developing new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops;
• Pest and disease control; and
• Development of organic and sustainable production practices.
The following have been identified as funding priorities for the 2012 Florida Specialty Crop Block Grant Program:
• Projects with immediate benefit to the public/industry
• Projects that address barriers to increasing access, availability and consumption of Florida-grown specialty crops by improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems
• Projects that increase access and availability of specialty crops for underserved populations
• Projects that increase child and adult nutrition knowledge, consumption and access to Florida specialty crops, such as double coupon programs at Farmers’ Markets for SNAP and WIC beneficiaries
• Projects that 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, has a high likelihood of success and the expected benefits align with the proposed budget.
Specialty crops include fruit and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, horticulture and nursery crops. Funded projects must be completed within 24 months.
The deadline to apply for a Specialty Crop Block Grant is April 9. Grant applications will be reviewed by DACS, along with members of an external review committee that is representative of Florida’s specialty crop industry. With USDA approval, funded projects are anticipated to begin by January 2013.
For more information, please visit freshfromflorida.com/grants/specialty_crop.html.