November 21, 2023 | Montpelier, VT - The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) announces $200,000 in grant funds to strengthen Vermont’s specialty crop industries and producer associations. Specialty crops are defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture crops (including honey, hops, maple syrup and mushrooms), and nursery crops (including Christmas trees and floriculture).
Interested applicants should submit a pre-application by January 14, 2024 at 11:59 PM. Full instructions and information can be found below.
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.
Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) funds enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops by–
- Leveraging efforts to market and promote specialty crops
- Assisting producers with research and development relevant to specialty crops
- Expanding availability and access to specialty crops
- Addressing local, regional, and national challenges confronting specialty crop producers
USDA AMS supports projects that address the needs of U.S. specialty crop growers and strengthen local and regional food systems.
Specialty Crops Definition
U.S. statute  defines specialty crops as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).” This definition includes culinary herbs and spices, medicinal plants, hops, honey, maple syrup, mushrooms, and Christmas trees. 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?
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. Applicants should describe how a project will benefit a specialty crop industry, a group of producers or businesses, or the public rather than a single business or organization.
We encourage businesses, organizations, or individuals to collaborate with industry representatives, such as members of producer associations, to ensure that the project will benefit multiple businesses and address specialty crop industry needs. Connect with a producer association today!
Applicants must follow USDA guidelines for eligible costs. See Appendix B: Allowable Costs & Activities, in the 2023 VT SCBGP Request for Applications for an overview of these guidelines.
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
- We award SCBGP funds through a competitive review process guided by industry, nonprofit and government stakeholders.
- There is no minimum or maximum award; however, we competitively award around $200,000 total each year.
- Over the past 5 years, we competitively awarded individual projects between $4,000 and $58,000. The average award over this period was around $35,000, and 50% of awarded projects received between $20,000 and $45,000.
- We will award grants for projects up to 2 years, 6 months in length.
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 a Participating State department of agriculture.
How to Apply
- Download the 2024 Vermont SCBGP Request for Applications (RFA).
On February 2, 2023, VAAFM held a Specialty Crop Block Grant Applicant Webinar to outline the grant application, requirements, and answer applicant questions. Please view the recording below for further information. A new information session is scheduled for December 12, 2023 at 3:00-4:00 PM. Register at https://bit.ly/2024SCBGPWebinar.
Deadlines & Key Dates
November 21, 2023
Request for Applications (RFA) released
December 4, 2023
Pre-Application opens in WebGrants
January 14, 2024
Deadline to submit a Pre-Application
Pre-applicants invited to full application process notified
Deadline to submit a full application (Invited applicants only)
Applicants notified of funding decisions
Vermont Agency of Agriculture submits State Plan to USDA
Grantees notified of USDA decisions (Adjustments may be required)
USDA announces awards
Guides & Templates
- WebGrants Application Guide
- How to Submit a Claim in WebGrants
- Annual Performance Report Template (Grants awarded 2021 and earlier)
- Annual Performance Report Examples (Grants awarded 2021 and earlier)
- Final Performance Report Template (Grants awarded 2021 and earlier)
 Section 101 of the Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004 (7 U.S.C. 1621 note) and amended under section 10107 of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, Public Law 115-343 (the Farm Bill.)