For Immediate Release - February 13, 2012

USDA Awards Massachusetts $400,000 for Specialty Crop Producers

Federal funding now available to eligible Massachusetts farmers

BOSTON – Monday, February 13, 2012 – Officials from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) today announced that $400,000 will be made available to specialty crop producers through funding from the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

The grants will help strengthen the market for Massachusetts specialty crops such as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops. With the awarding of these grants, DAR is beginning the Request for Response (RFR) process.

“Massachusetts agriculture plays an important role through access to nutrition and improved quality of life in both the physical and mental wellbeing of our residents as well as the strength of our economy," said DAR Commissioner Scott J. Soares. "This funding will strengthen the Massachusetts agricultural economy by jumpstarting new markets, creating job opportunities and promoting greater access to safe, locally grown food."

The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program supports initiatives that:

  • Increase specialty crop nutritional knowledge and consumption,
  • Improvements to distribution system efficiency and reduced operating costs,
  • Promote the development of good agricultural handling and manufacturing practices
  • Support research through standard and green initiatives,
  • Enhance food safety,
  • Develop new/improved seed varieties and specialty crops,
  • Control pests and diseases,
  • Create organic and sustainable production practices,
  • Establish local and regional fresh food systems, and
  • Expand food access in underserved/food desert communities.

DAR solicits proposals through a competitive RFR process. All agricultural organizations including beginning farmers, commodity groups, individuals, agricultural organizations, colleges and universities, producers, municipalities, state agencies, and agricultural nonprofits are all eligible for this grant program, provided their proposals meet all the specifications in the Department’s RFR and the USDA’s Notice of Federal Assistance, CFDA 10.170.

The RFR and all necessary documents, proposal submission requirements and deadlines can be found at http://www.mass.gov/agr/markets/specialty_crop_block_grant_program.htm and on the Commonwealth’s E-procurement website COMMBUYS at www.commbuys.com.

DAR’s mission is to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions – Agricultural Conservation & Technical Assistance, Agricultural Markets, Animal Health, and Crop and Pest Services – DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the rich diversity of the Commonwealth’s agricultural community to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture’s role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR’s website at www.mass.gov/agr, and/or follow at twitter.com/MDARCommish.