The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Thursday announced that eleven projects in Iowa have been selected to receive grant funding to help enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. The Department received $282,032 through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service to support the program.
“The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program has supported a wide variety of projects here in Iowa in the past several years to promote locally grown products and we are excited to get another round of funding that will support food safety, research and marketing efforts. Specialty crops are a very important part of Iowa agriculture as they allow farmers to diversify and give customers access to local foods and other products,” said Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig.
Iowa agricultural non-profit organizations, cooperatives, specialty crop industry associations or organizations, and producer groups were eligible to apply for funding.
Grant funds shall be used for projects that benefit and enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops industry as a whole, and cannot be for projects that directly benefit a particular product or provide a profit to a single organization, institution, or individual.
“Specialty Crops” that are eligible under this program are fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. The funds not passed through to Iowa organizations will be used by the Department to administer the grant.
Two projects have direct connections to northeast Iowa.
- Allamakee New Beginnings, Inc. dba Iowa Food Hub – $21,198 to manage funding for a state-wide GAP/GHP Cost-Share Program to defray the cost of these voluntary audits for any Iowa specialty crop farmer.
- Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Local Foods Program – $24,000 to provide guidance, technical assistance, support and incentives to schools to help them increase local food purchases. Teresa Wiemerslage is a team member on this project that is modeled after NE Iowa Food and Fitness.
Other projects include:
- Lutheran Services in Iowa – $24,000 to provide refugees specialty crop producer training with a focus on food safety, organic production, and crop planning.
- Iowa State University of Science and Technology – $23,750 to improve productivity and expand production of specialty leafy greens in hydroponic systems.
- Iowa State University of Science and Technology- $23,968 to conduct research on evaluating season extension strategies for production of spring vegetable crops by studying different row cover materials that can be utilized
- Golden Hills Resource, Conservation & Development – $23,991 to create new markets for sales of locally-sourced and locally–propagated native oak trees.
- The James Gang dba Iowa Valley Global Food Project – $23,331 to create an agricultural model where local residents and “New Iowans” can work hand-in-hand to grow specialty crops.
- University of Northern Iowa – $17,186 to operate the Greens-to-Go program in more neighborhoods.
- Practical Farmers of Iowa – $24,000 for for training on machinery and equipment for specialty crop production.
- Southern Iowa Resource, Conservation & Development – $23,968 to draw the millennial demographic to farmers markets.
- Johnson County Extension- $20,764 to develop a website with a series of professionally produced videos to promote the cultivation and consumption of three native Iowa: persimmon, pawpaw and aronia berry.