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Maine Specialty Crop Grant Program Applications Now Open
February 13, 2023
Augusta, ME - The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry's (DACF) Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources seeks Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) applications for this year's round of funding. The SCBGP is a competitive grant program that funds innovative projects supporting Maine's expanding specialty crop sector and explore new market opportunities. Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, nursery, floriculture, culinary herbs, maple, Christmas trees, and honey. Processed foods are eligible, provided their development enhances the competitiveness of one or more specialty crops. Visit the USDA AMS website for a complete list of eligible crops.
The DACF administers the SCBGP each year and will evaluate all applications for eligibility based on the criteria listed in the application package. Qualified project applications will be reviewed and scored by a panel of industry stakeholders. All DACF-approved projects will be incorporated into one state grant request, which will be submitted to the United States Department of Agriculture- Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA-AMS).
"In 2022, Maine awarded $562,000 for seven projects. We anticipate $653,000 this year," said DACF Agricultural Resource Development Division Director Michelle Webb. "As Maine farmers seek to diversify their production, these grant awards provide important opportunities for innovation through specialty crop marketing, research, and education."
Projects must demonstrate benefit to the broader specialty crop industry rather than to an individual or organization. Past and current awards have supported research into Maine's most crucial specialty crops, development of pest management and soil health strategies, and enhancement of market promotion and food safety projects.
Applications that directly align with one or more DACF priority areas receive additional points in the scoring process and are more likely to receive a grant award. The 2023 priority areas are:
- Any application from the previous year which was for a multiple-year term and was only funded for the first year of the project. For those projects that fit under this category, they must submit a new proposal and show progress from the first year's funding.
- Projects that enhance food safety education, primarily in relation to FDA rules regarding improved handling and processing of specialty crops
- Projects to enhance soil and ecosystem health
- Projects that market Maine specialty crops to diversified and expanded markets, or that research potential market expansion efforts and strategies
- Projects that improve adaptation and increase resilience to climate-related crop disturbances in support of long-term farm business vitality and productivity
- Projects that alleviate supply chain disruptions for specialty crop inputs, processing, or distribution
"DACF is so excited to be able to offer these resources to Maine's agricultural sector," said Craig Lapine, Director of the Maine Bureau of Agriculture, Food & Rural Resources. "In the past, these grants have spurred exciting innovations in production, marketing, stewardship, and more. We have high hopes that this year's applicants will continue that tradition."
Since 2006, the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program has awarded more than $8.5 million to Maine DACF to support the growing number of specialty crop producers selling into local and regional markets. DACF encourages applications that serve smaller farms and ranches, new and beginning farmers and ranchers, underserved producers, veteran producers, and underserved communities. Interested applicants should apply directly through their state departments of agriculture.
Agricultural associations, industry and producer groups, municipalities, community-based organizations, educational institutions, and non-profits are eligible for this grant opportunity. Eligible groups must submit proposals for grants of up to $100,000 per project by 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, March 16, 2023. The 2023 SCBG application is available by searching under DACF on the DAFS Procurement Services website.
Maine's 2022 SCBGP awards supported several projects, including expanding marketing and infrastructure for the wild blueberry sparkling wine industry, providing technical assistance to farms for compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act, and investigating practices to reduce a specific potato virus.
Those interested can consult the RFA for more information. Questions may be submitted by February 24, 2023, to SpecialtyCropBlockGrant@Maine.gov.