The USDA has awarded the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) $1.7 million in federal funds for a Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP). Through February 23 of this year, the TDA is accepting proposals for the funding of projects designed to raise awareness and consumption of state specialty crops, including fruit, vegetables, dried fruits, tree nuts and nursery plants.
"These federal grants make it possible for consumers to have greater access to locally-grown Texas crops," state Ag Commissioner Todd Staples said in a statement. "These funds also help improve the quality and availability of these products to Texas' specialty crops industry remains competitive in the marketplace while bolstering the Texas economy."
The proposed projects should focus on food safety, marketing, nutrition, plant health and value-added projects.
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In previous years the grants have largely been awarded to Texas AgrilLife Research projects, universities to study specific issues, and various associations like the Texas Vegetable and Watermelon Associations, the Texas Olive Council and TexaSweet (grapefruits).
The San Antonio Food Bank, Trinity Methodist Church & Volunteer Engineers also received funds last year to "educate area farmers on the impact of accepting electronic benefit transaction cards so they may increase their sales as well as provide an increase in availability of specialty crops in urban food deserts and increase community gardens to provide additional supply of specialty crops to area food banks in order to increase production and consumption in food insecure neighborhoods."
"The grant program has the potential to kick-start a new business," Bryan Black, Director of Communications for the Texas Department of Agriculture, wrote in an email. "However, the proposal submitted must show a critical benefit to the specialty crop industry, it cannot just benefit a single individual business."
So, got an idea on how to enhance or promote Texas produce? Check it out.