Idaho specialty crop grant program receives more funding this year
By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
POCATELLO – The Idaho State Department of Agriculture will receive an additional $2.8 million this year for its annual specialty crop block grant program.
That’s in addition to the $2 million it normally receives annually from USDA for the program, which provides grant funding for projects designed to benefit the state’s specialty crop growers.
The program is designed to solely benefit specialty crops, which include vegetables, fruits, tree nuts, dried fruits, nursery and horticulture crops.
The grant money, which is provided through USDA’s national specialty block grant program, is used to promote, market and conduct research for the state’s specialty crop industries.
USDA was authorized through the farm bill to provide $73 million through the program to states this year.
The ag department announced April 13 that it would provide an additional $97 million for the program in 2021. That additional money is available through a recent COVID-19 stimulus package.
The deadline to submit applications to ISDA for this year’s block of grant money ended recently. The Idaho ag department received 24 applications in 2021 and expects to be able to officially announce this year’s grant recipients in September.
ISDA Director of Operations Chanel Tewalt said the additional $2.8 million the department will receive from USDA this year for Idaho’s specialty crop block grant program has somewhat different eligibility requirements than the normal program and
how that additional funding will be distributed has yet to be determined.
“The deadline for the new funding is different than the deadline for the farm bill funding,” Tewalt told Idaho Farm Bureau Federation. “So, that gives us time to look at the new requirements and determine our next steps.”
The Idaho ag department funded 13 total projects last year through its specialty crop grant program with the $2 million it received from USDA.
Since the program was created in 2009, ISDA has awarded a total of $14.7 million to 150 projects designed to benefit specialty crop farmers in Idaho.
“ISDA’s past awards for specialty crop projects have benefited Idaho agriculture with advancements in research, promotion and innovation,” said ISDA Director Celia Gould. “We are grateful to be able to utilize USDA specialty crop block grant funding once again to provide opportunities for Idaho’s producers.”
The grants have helped some of the state’s specialty crop industries, such as Idaho’s dry bean industry, to fund a lot of promotion, marketing and research projects that they otherwise could not afford to do.
“This program has been incredibly important to Idaho’s dry bean industry,” said Idaho Bean Commission Administrator Andi Woolf-Weibye. “Being a smaller commission with a small budget, those grants have been integral in helping us fund some research projects that we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford to do.”
Like the state’s dry bean industry, Idaho’s wine grape industry has received several specialty crop grants over the years. A lot of that grant money went toward helping the Idaho Wine Commission promote Idaho wines regionally and nationally, said IWC Operations and Finance Manager Brenna Smith.
The marketing and promotion efforts the grants have helped fund have allowed the commission to let people around the nation know that Idaho produces quality wines, she said.
“Most of our marketing dollars come from those grants,” Smith said. “The ISDA grants have been almost essential to us over the years in gaining the type of recognition Idaho’s wine industry has received.”
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