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Deadline is May 15 to apply for specialty crop grant funding

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

POCATELLO – There is still time to apply for a special, one-time pot of grant money that is available this year to projects that benefit Idaho’s specialty crop industry.

The Idaho State Department of Agriculture is accepting applications through May 15 for an additional $2.8 million in grant money available through its annual specialty crop block grant program.

The ISDA normally awards about $2 million in grants each year through its normal specialty crop block grant program. The funding, which is provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, can be used to promote, market and conduct research for the state’s specialty crop industry.

The specialty crop grant program is designed to solely benefit specialty crops, which include vegetables, fruits, tree nuts, dried nuts, honey, nursery and horticulture crops.

Since it was created in 2009, the ISDA program has awarded a total of $16.5 million to 165 projects.

The Idaho ag department learned last year that in addition to the $2 million it normally receives from USDA for the program, it would receive another $2.8 million for the program through a COVID-relief stimulus package.

The application deadline for ISDA’s normal round of specialty crop block grant funding has already ended this year.

But the ag department is still accepting applications for the additional money that became available through the COVID-relief bill.

According to ISDA officials, priority for grants awarded through this additional round of funding will be given to projects that respond to COVID-19 impacts.

This means that in addition to farm groups, individual companies or farms may apply for COVID-related facility adjustments, including mitigation efforts such as housing adaptations, personal protective equipment, and plexiglass barriers to protect employees or the public.

“For the first time, this grant program provides an opportunity to assist individual specialty crop producers with COVID-19 mitigation,” said ISDA Director Celia Gould. “It also provides valuable resources for improving supply chains and fostering innovative market adaptations to strengthen Idaho’s specialty crop industry in the years ahead.”

Priority will also be given to projects that implement market adaptations and supply chain improvements related to COVID-19 that benefit a variety of businesses, said Laura Johnson, who manages ISDA’s market development division and oversees the department’s specialty crop block grant program.

“This round of grant funding is unique and may include individual for-profit producers with specific projects related to rearrangement and reconversion costs associated with pandemic mitigation measures,” she said. “Projects that implement market or supply chain adaptations also are eligible, but they must benefit a variety of businesses.”

All application materials may be found at  

For additional information, contact Johnson at (208) 332-8533 or by email at

The money provided through ISDA’s specialty crop block grant program has proved especially important for some of Idaho’s smaller farm commissions, which are funded by growers and have limited budgets.

That’s the case with Idaho’s dry bean industry, which, through the Idaho Bean Commission, has funded a lot of promotion, marketing and research projects over the years it otherwise wouldn’t have been able to, given its $200,000 annual budget.

“This program has greatly benefited the state’s bean industry because it has helped us fund some research projects that we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford to do,” said IBC Administrator Andi Woolf-Weibye. “We are a small commission with limited funding and we wouldn’t be able to fund nearly as much research and other projects without that funding.”

This one-time round of funding that came from a COVID-relief package “will open the program up to a wider pool of candidates and could be a huge benefit to the state’s specialty crop industry as a whole,” Woolf-Weibye added.