January 7, 2021| Montpelier, VT – When I first heard the term “specialty crop,” I thought of niche specialty food products, such as elderberry jam, maple-flavored granola, and Vermont wine. I did not think of staple foods like potatoes and onions, nor did I expect that over half of the 6,808 Vermont farms counted in the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture grow specialty crops. In general, most agriculture products that are not animal products or grain, fiber, and oil field crops are considered specialty crops by USDA. Read more ...
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.
Vermont 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; and
- addressing local, regional, and national challenges confronting specialty crop producers.
Specialty crops are fruits and tree nuts; vegetables; culinary herbs, spices, and medicinal plants; nursery, floriculture, horticulture, and Christmas trees; honey; hops; maple syrup; and mushrooms.1
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, sector, or the public rather than a single business or organization.
We encourage individual businesses, organizations, or individuals to collaborate with other 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!
In addition, applicants must follow USDA guidelines for eligible costs. See Appendix B: Allowable Costs & Activities, in the 2020 VT SCBGP Request for Applications for an overview of these guidelines.
Specialty Crops Definition
U.S. statute  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.
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 $7,000 and $52,000. The average award over this period was around $27,000, and 50% of awarded projects received between $15,000 and $34,000.
- 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 2021 Vermont SCBGP Request for Applications (RFA) - Coming Soon! RFA will be posted on January 19, 2021.
- Attend or view the Vermont SCBGP Information Session Webinar (more info below).
- Submit your pre-application in WebGrants by March 1, 2021 at 4:30 PM.
Register today for the 2021 Vermont SCBGP Information Session Webinar for prospective applicants on Tuesday, January 26, 2021 at 1:00 PM-2:00 PM. The webinar will be recorded and posted to this page.
Deadlines & Key Dates
|January 19, 2021||Request for Applications (RFA) released|
January 26, 2021 at 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
|SCBGP Information Session Webinar|
|March 1, 2021 at 4:30 PM||Deadline to submit a Pre-Application|
|March 2021||Pre-applicants notified|
|April 2021||Deadline to submit a full application
Invited applicants only
|May 2021||Applicants notified of funding decisions|
|May 2021||Vermont Agency of Agriculture submits State Plan to USDA-AMS|
|August 2021||Grantees notified of AMS decisions
Adjustments may be required
|October 2021||USDA announces final awards|
- WebGrants Application Guide
- How to Submit a Claim in WebGrants
- Annual Performance Report Template
- Annual Performance Report Examples
- Final Performance Report Template
 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.)