ESSENTIAL WORKERS Farmworkers in San Benito County and beyond have continued to work in the fields since the pandemic started, increasing their risk of exposure and illness, according to public officials.
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week announced the availability of $72.9 million through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to fund “innovative projects designed to support the expanding specialty crop sector and explore new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products,” according to the USDA. 

The federal department’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is accepting applications for the grant program until May 1. Through the block grant program, AMS will issue noncompetitive grants to state departments of agriculture or equivalent in all 50 U.S. states and territories. The program aims to fund projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops and support specialty crop growers through marketing, education and research, according to a press release from the USDA. 

Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops (including floriculture)—many of which are abundant in San Benito County. According to the county farm bureau, about 69% of San Benito’s commercial agriculture production is vegetable and row crops; 15% is fruit and nut crops; and 15% is field crops.

SCBGP funds are allocated to U.S. states and territories based on a formula that considers both specialty crop acreage and production value. The program is funded through the 2018 Farm Bill.

“This continued funding for specialty crop block grants will help states and territories pinpoint local needs of their specialty crop sectors and support producers which will in turn increase the availability of specialty crops throughout the nation,” said USDA Marketing and Regulatory Programs Under Secretary Jenny Lester Moffitt. “Since 2006 when the program began, USDA has invested more than $1 billion through these block grants to fund nearly 12,000 projects that increased the long-term competitiveness of the specialty crop industry and created new and better markets for specialty crop producers selling both in the U.S. and abroad.” 

AMS encourages applications that serve smaller farms and ranches, new and beginning farmers and ranchers, underserved producers, veteran producers and/or underserved communities, says the press release. Interested applicants can apply directly through their state departments of agriculture. In California, potential applicants are encouraged to contact Kristi Duprey of the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture, at 916.296.8612 or [email protected]

Applications from states and territories must be submitted electronically through Applications will be accepted until 11:59pm ET on May 1. The Request for Applications (RFA) is posted on the AMS SCBGP webpage at

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.



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