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Money available for specialty crop growers

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is accepting grant proposals for specialty crop research under the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) Program.

The goal of the program is to fund projects that will increase the competitiveness of specialty crops. The MDA anticipates a federal allocation of $671,000.

The USDA defines specialty crops as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops (including floriculture).

Nonprofits, government agencies, universities and other organizations involved in Minnesota agriculture are encouraged to apply.

Individuals, for-profit businesses or commercial entities may only apply if their project demonstrates a significant benefit to a specialty crop segment.

This program will not fund projects focused on individual businesses, physical improvements/equipment or operating capital.

Project review will be supported by an outside panel with experience growing, marketing, researching and promoting specialty crops.

MDA will accept applications from eligible entities submitted by 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 29.

MDA's 2013 SCBG priorities include:

• Innovation in production, aggregation, processing, packaging.

• Improving operational efficiency, reducing costs or other barriers and increasing access to distribution systems and new markets for specialty crops.

• Increasing the demand for and supply of locally produced specialty crops.

• Pest and disease control and varietal improvement.

• Development of food safety practices including good agricultural practices, good handling practices and good manufacturing practices.

• Practices that encourage conservation and environmental stewardship, including organic specialty crops research.

For a complete list of crops that qualify for research, visit

For a copy of the Minnesota SCBG RFP/Grant Manual, grant application guidance and a fillable application form, go to