No one doubts the importance to Iowa's agricultural economy of major crops such as corn and soybeans. Diversification, however, is a good idea in many business pursuits. With that in mind, it makes sense to give some consideration to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship's announcement that applications are being accepted in the Specialty Crop Block Grant program.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said in a statement issued late last month that it is anticipated funds will be available to enhance the competitiveness of Iowa-grown specialty crops.
"The Specialty Crop Block Grant provides funds to support food safety, research and marketing efforts that will encourage Iowans to choose the products that are produced right here in our state," Northey said. "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 Iowa Department of Agriculture expects to receive $271,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund specialty crop grants. The grant awards will be contingent on the anticipated federal support materializing.
Fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture, are among the specialty crops eligible for consideration under this program, according to the IDALS.
Proposals must be received by the department on or before 4 p.m. on May 3. Information about the application process is available at www.IowaAgriculture.gov/Horticulture-and-FarmersMarkets/specialtyCropGrant.asp.
"The Specialty Crop Block Grant program has been a tremendous benefit to Iowa and it is important we understand the priorities of the specialty crop producers as we consider this year's applications," Northey said, noting that public comments are being sought from industry representatives and others as the department strives to make this grant program as effective as possible.
The Messenger urges individuals and organizations with an interest in this initiative to explore this opportunity for grant support. Innovative thinking is always a priority as Iowa agriculture responds to the challenges and opportunities of our rapidly changing 21st century.