Grants fund projects that will increase the competitiveness of Minnesota grown specialty crops in domestic and foreign markets. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines specialty crops as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, floriculture, and processed products that have 50 percent or more specialty crop content. A comprehensive list of eligible specialty crops is available on the USDA's web site.

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Applicant Eligibility

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) encourages the following groups to apply:

  • non-profit organizations
  • producer organizations
  • government agencies
  • universities
  • other agricultural groups

For-profit entities, farms, and other businesses who want to develop sector-wide research and development projects are also eligible.

Project Eligibility

Projects must solely enhance the competitiveness of a Minnesota specialty crop as defined by the USDA. This program cannot fund starting a business or expanding a farm.  Each project must demonstrate external support from specialty crop stakeholders and produce measurable outcomes for the specialty crop industry and/or public beneficiaries. Projects that address problems or opportunities that cross state boundaries are eligible.

Specialty Crop Block Grant funding priorities are determined prior to developing each year’s Request for Proposals (RFP). The MDA is soliciting comments and suggestions for next year's program runtil January 4, 2019. Please send them to program administrator Ann Kuzj.

Last year's funding priorities were:

  • Improve operational efficiency, reduce costs or other barriers, or increase access to distribution systems and new markets for specialty crops.
  • Increase child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops.
  • Focus on pest and disease control, or developing new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops.
  • Conduct specialty crop research, including research focusing on sustainability, conservation, or environmental outcomes.
  • Improve the capacity of all entities in the specialty crop distribution chain to comply with the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Projects that benefit beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers receive bonus points.

FFY2019 MDA SCBG Program Timeline

RFP released

Mid-January 2019

Applications due to the MDA

Mid-March 2019 (exact date and time to be determined)

Grant Review Process

About six weeks

MDA notifies conditionally approved applicants

April 2019

MDA submits state plan to USDA

May 2019

USDA approval (anticipated)

September 2019

MDA issues approval letters to successful applicants/initiates contracting

October 2019

Project work can start (anticipated)

November 1, 2019

Latest project end date

March 31, 2022

Amounts Available

The MDA sub-awards the bulk of our USDA block grant, about $1 million, through a competitive review process. We will award grants of $10,000 to $100,000 for projects that can last up to two-and-a-half years.

Applying

The next RFP will be released in January 2019. However, you can read last year's RFP to get general grant information, application instructions and requirements, grant award process and reporting requirements, and scoring criteria/evaluation profile. You can apply online when the round is open. If you need the application in an alternative format, contact the program administrator.