Specialty Crop Block Grant Program

Program Background

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.

Program Purpose

Vermont Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) funds enhance the competitiveness of Vermont specialty crops including fruits and tree nuts; vegetables; culinary herbs, spices, and medicinal plants; nursery, floriculture, horticulture, and Christmas trees; honey; hops; maple syrup; and mushrooms.


Any business, organization, or individual can apply to the Vermont SCBGP. However, projects must benefit more than one specialty crop business, organization, or individual to be eligible for funding.

Specialty Crops Definition

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.

Project Types

USDA encourages projects to address the following issues affecting the specialty crop industry:

  • ​Enhancing food safety
  • Improving the capacity of all entities in the specialty crop distribution chain to comply with the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act, for example, by 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
  • Developing new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops
  • Pest and disease control
  • Increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops
  • Improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems
  • Sustainability

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

Award Information

VAAFM awards Vermont SCBGP funds through a competitive review process guided by industry, nonprofit and government stakeholders. Grants may be awarded for projects up to 2 years, 6 months in length. 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 B: Allowable Costs & Activities, in the 2019 VT SCBGP Request for Proposals for an overview of these guidelines.

Multi-State Partnerships

A multi-state partnership is a project that implements activities with measurable outcomes that benefit two or more U.S. States and/or Territories. Multi-state partnerships are encouraged and should provide solutions to problems that cross state boundaries including, but not limited to, food safety; plant pests and disease; research; crop-specific projects addressing common issues; and marketing and promotion. Applicants with multi-state partnership projects may also consider submitting those projects to the Specialty Crop Multi-State Program (SCMP) via Participating State department of agriculture.

How to Apply

  1. Download the 2019 Vermont SCBGP Request for Proposals (RFP).
  2. Review the Vermont SCBGP Terms and Conditions and the WebGrants Application Guide.
  3. Attend or view the Vermont SCBGP Information Session webinar.
  4. Submit your letter of intent (LOI) in WebGrants by February 25, 2019. ​


Information Session

We will hold a webinar for potential applicants on Friday, January 25, 2019 at 11:00 AM. Register for the Vermont SCBGP Information Session webinar at bit.ly/scbgpwebinar19.

Deadlines & Key Dates
January 14, 2019 Request for Proposals (RFP) released
January 25, 2019
11:00 AM–12:00 PM
SCBGP Information Session Webinar
Register at bit.ly/scbgpwebinar19
February 25, 2019
11:59 PM
Deadline to a submit a Letter of Intent (LOI)
March 2019 LOI applicants notified
April 2019 Deadline to submit a full application
Invited applicants only
May 2019 Applicants notified of funding decisions
May 2019 Vermont Agency of Agriculture submits State Plan to USDA-AMS
August 2019 Grantees notified of AMS decisions
Adjustments may be required
October 2019

USDA announces final awards


Guides & Templates


[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)

Program Contact

Kathryn Donovan
(802) 585-4571

WebGrants Technical Assistance

Diana Ferguson
(802) 622-4094

Melissa Moon
(802) 828-3828

Contact Information

Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

116 State Street
Montpelier, Vt 05620-2901

Program Contacts

  • Media Inquiries                      802.622.4662
  • Licensing & Registration        802.828.2436
  • Business Development          802.828.1619
  • Feed, Seed, Fertilizer & Lime  802.828.2431
  • Working Lands                    802.622.4477
  • Public Health & Resource Management                802.828.2431
  • Laboratory               802.522.3502
  • Food Safety & Consumer Protection                        802.828.2426
    • Animal Health                        802.828.2421
    • Dairy                              802.828.2433
    • Consumer Protection / Weights & Measures        802.828.2433
    • Meat Inspection                    802.828.2426
  • Water Quality                               802.828.2431
    • Farmer Assistance                    802.622.4098
    • Enforcement                                802.828.3475
    • Reports                                      802.272.0323
    • BMP's                                      802.828.3474
  • Act 250                          802.828.2431 
  • Pesticide                        802.828.2431