Specialty Crop Block Grant Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA-AMS) awards Specialty Crop Block Grants to the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories. In Vermont, the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) administers these funds to enhance the competitiveness of Vermont and regionally-grown specialty crops. 

About the Vermont Specialty Crop Block Grant Program

Vermont Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) funds enhance the competitiveness of Vermont specialty crops including fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices, honey, hops, maple syrup, Christmas trees and nursery crops. VAAFM awards SCBGP funds through a competitive review process guided by industry, nonprofit and government stakeholders.

The Vermont Specialty Crop Block Grant Program FY 2017 application cycle is now open. Download the Vermont SCBGP RFP here

Information Session

The Vermont SCBGP held an Information Session on February 7, 2017. Click here to access the recording, or download the presentation used during the webinar. The webinar provides an introduction to the Vermont SCBGP, the 2017 application process—including USDA standards for outcome measures—and the agency's online grants management system, WebGrants.

WebGrants

All Vermont SCBGP letters of intent and applications must be submitted through the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets’ online grants management system, WebGrants. Additional guidance for working with WebGrants is provided in our RFP. 

Expected Measurable Outcomes

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is required to report on the outcomes of the SCBGP at a national scale to demonstrate program performance. Each proposal must include at least one of 8 specified outcomes and indicators (quantifiable measures). By collecting, aggregating, and reporting performance data across all states and territories, AMS can share the impact of the SCGBP with all stakeholders, including the Office of Management and Budget, Congress, the agricultural community, and the general public. The Vermont SCBGP RFP provides further guidance on meeting these requirements.

What are specialty crops?  

U.S. statute[1] defines specialty crops as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).” Eligible processed products must consist of greater than 50% of the specialty crop by weight, exclusive of added water. For specific crop eligibility, visit What is a Specialty Crop? AMS supports projects that address the needs of U.S. specialty crop growers and strengthen local and regional food systems.

Who can apply?

Any business, organization, or individual can apply for Vermont Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funding. However, projects must benefit more than one specialty crop business, organization, or individual to be eligible for funding. 

What types of projects are eligible?

VAAFM strongly encourages projects proposing innovative partnerships that will develop new knowledge to strengthen specialty crop producers’ operations. The following non-exhaustive list provides examples of the types of projects SCBGP funds can support:

  • Assisting entities throughout the specialty crop value chain in developing good agricultural practices, good handling practices, and good manufacturing practices, including cost-share arrangements for funding audits of such systems for small farmers, packers, and processors
  • Developing local and regional food systems
  • Enhancing food safety
  • Improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems
  • Improving food access in underserved communities
  • Increasing child and adult nutritional knowledge and consumption of specialty crops
  • Investing in specialty crop research, including research to focus on conservation and environmental outcomes
  • Pest and disease control, including the development of organic and sustainable production practicesxxx

Information for Applicants

Vermont SCBGP funds are awarded through a competitive review process. Grants may be awarded for projects up to three years in length, and each year VAAFM seeks to award at least 50% of grant funds to projects between 18 and 36 months in duration. Although awards are not capped, successful proposals are often awarded between $10,000 and $30,000 per project year. In addition, applicants must follow USDA guidelines for eligible costs. See Appendix C: Allowable Costs & Activities, in the Vermont SCBGP FY 2017 Request for Proposals for an overview of these guidelines.

Multi-state projects that address challenges and opportunities that cross state boundaries are welcomed. Applicants whose projects support farmers markets, farm stands, community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, and other direct marketing opportunities should consider submitting those projects to the Farmers Market Promotion Program or Local Food Promotion Program

Deadlines & Key Dates

  • February 1, 2017 – Request for Proposals (RFP) released
  • March 15, 2017 – Deadline to submit a letter of intent (LOI)
  • Mid-April 2017 (est.) – LOI applicants notified of invitation to apply
  • May 12, 2017 – Deadline to submit a full proposal
  • June 2017 (est.) – Grant decisions made
  • October 2017 – USDA announces final awards

Specialty Crop Multi-State Program

The Specialty Crop Multi-State Program awards funds to collaborative, multi-state projects that solely enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops by addressing regional or national specialty crop issues including food safety; plant pests and disease; research; crop-specific projects addressing common issues; and marketing and promotion. Projects must include at least one partner in another state and be submitted to a Participating State department of agriculture. Visit our Specialty Crop Multi-State Program page for more information.

Forms

Prior Year Awards

In 2016, VAAFM awarded grants totaling $237,845 for seven projects to benefit Vermont fruit, vegetable, and added-value producers and increase consumer access to locally produced food. These grants were awarded to four agricultural organizations to undertake a range of research, education, promotion, and program-building projects and will leverage an additional $167,000 in matching funds. Read the full press release here

In 2015, VAAFM awarded grants totaling $255,475 for eight SCBGP projects to benefit Vermont fruit, vegetable, hops, maple, and added-value producers and increase consumer access to locally produced food. These grants were awarded to six agricultural organizations to undertake a range of research, education, promotion, and program-building projects and will leverage an additional $300,000 in matching funds. Read the full press release here

Previously Funded Projects

 

Contact

Kristina Sweet
Senior Agriculture Development Coordinator
(802) 522-7811
kristina.sweet@vermont.gov

 

[1] Section 101 of the Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004 (7 U.S.C. 1621 note) and amended under section 10010 of the Agricultural Act of 2014, Public Law 113-79 (the Farm Bill)