(Des Moines) -- Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has announced that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will be awarding $244,000 in grants to Iowa organizations to help enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops grown in Iowa. The Department received $271,396 through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service to support the program.
"Specialty crops are a very important part of Iowa agriculture as they allow farmers to diversify and give customers access to locally grown products," Northey said. "These federal funds will support a variety of efforts that will make these Iowa grown crops more available and encourage Iowans to choose fruits, vegetables, nuts and flowers that are produced right here in our state."
Iowa agricultural non-profit organizations, cooperatives, specialty crop industry associations or organizations, and producer groups were eligible to apply for funding to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops.
The Department also invited public comment from specialty crop stakeholders to help identify priorities for the program and established a review committee to help review, evaluate, and make recommendations on which grant proposals submitted to the Department should receive funding.
The maximum grant award from the Department to sub-grantees is $24,000 and administrative and indirect costs are not allowed.
The Department received 29 proposals requesting assistance and the 11 chosen were selected by an independent review committee of nine industry stakeholders.
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 ar eligible under this program are fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. The funds anot passed through to Iowa organizations will be used by the Department to administer the grant.
The full list of 11 grant recipients follows here:
Practical Farmers of Iowa - $24,000 to support improving employee management on fruit and vegetable farms.
Lutheran Services of Iowa - $24,000 to support increasing specialty crop production by refugee groups through land access and grower education.
Iowa Heartland RC&D - $23,983 for delivering specialty crops to corporations through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA's).
Iowa State University (Angela Shaw) - $23,939 for the statewide on-farm food safety program.
Iowa State University (Dining Services) - $13,645 to create awareness of the nutritional value and importance of specialty crops.
Southern Iowa RC&D - $23,928 to gather economic and social impact data in rural southwest Iowa to support specialty crop production.
Iowa State University (Lester) Wilson) - $20,755 to determine the optimum harvest time for aronia berries to maximize their antioxidant and sensory properties.
Golden Hills RC&D - $24,000 to support creating, marketing and promoting the Iowa Loess Hill AVA Wine Trail.
Iowa State University (Winneshiek County) - $15,750 to create a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)/Good Handling Practices (GHP) cost share program for Northeast Iowa fruit and vegetable producers.
Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship - $40,000 to spotlight on Iowa's specialty crops as part of the Iowa Farm to School Program.