Grants available to help promote specialty crops

Staff Writer
Story City Herald
Mike Naig

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is again accepting applications for grant funding through the Specialty Crop Block Grant program. The grants are available to support projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops grown in Iowa.

“The Specialty Crop Block Grant program has funded many valuable projects over the years that are focused on supporting our specialty crop farmers and helping build markets for these products. Funds are again available to support projects around food safety, research and marketing efforts,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “Specialty crops are a very important part of Iowa agriculture as they allow farmers to diversify and give customers access to locally grown products.”

The final funding level for the 2019 Iowa Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is yet to be announced by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, administer of the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, but should be similar to last year’s $334,269.77 funding.

Grant funds shall be used for projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops and that benefit the specialty crop industry as a whole and will not be awarded for projects that directly benefit a particular product or provide a profit to a single organization, institution or individual. These projects can include marketing and promotions, research and development, expanding availability and access to specialty crops and addressing local, regional and national challenges confronting specialty crop producers.

Iowa agencies, universities, institutions, and producer, industry and community-based organizations are all eligible to apply for funding to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. In addition, single organizations, institutions and individuals are encouraged to participate as project partners.

Grant awards will be considered up to a maximum of $24,000 and projects can have a duration of up to 30 months (2.5 years).

“Specialty Crops” that are eligible under this program are fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. Both fresh and processed specialty crops are eligible.

Proposals must be received on or before Friday, March 1. Additional information is available at

The Department is again establishing a Review Committee to help review, evaluate and make recommendations on grant proposals submitted to the Department.

Those interested in participating in the Review Committee should have knowledge of specialty crops, and/or grant writing or grant management experience, and the ability to devote the necessary time to complete the review process. Additional information about reviewer responsibilities, meeting dates and an application form can also be found at

Applications to participate in the Reviewer Committee are due Feb. 5, 2019.

The Department is asking specialty crop stakeholders and organizations to submit public comments on program priorities. The comments will help identify priorities, establish the criteria used to evaluate the projects proposed for funding and determine how the reviews are conducted.

Comments can be submitted by email to or by mail to Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Specialty Crop Block Grant, 502 East 9th, Des Moines, IA 50319. Comments received by March 1 will be presented to the review committee to assist in prioritizing projects.