July 02, 2009

Department of Agriculture Offers Specialty Crop Growers Funds to Enhance their Competitiveness

Applications due July 31

(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.) -- The Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) is seeking grant applications from organizations or groups of individuals interested in enhancing the competitiveness of the state's specialty crop industry. Grant applications are due on July 31, 2009.

"These grants are a fantastic opportunity for specialty crop growers to enhance their farm operations," said Dr. Jon Hagler, director of MDA. "Specialty crop grants are an opportunity to reward innovation and provide a better return to farm families."

Applications will be considered on a competitive basis. Selected applications will be included in the Missouri specialty crop state plan and reviewed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery crops, including floriculture. Some examples of enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops are research, promotion, marketing, nutrition, food safety and security, plant health, education, "buy local" programs, addressing environmental concerns and developing cooperatives.

In 2009, 15 projects were awarded. Those projects varied from promoting farmers' markets statewide, to establishing local community gardens and after school-garden clubs, to researching the performance of seedless watermelons and establishing a voluntary online registry to help producers of pesticide-sensitive crops alert applicators to the crop's location.

An application packet and program details for the specialty crop grant are available at mda.mo.gov or by contacting Tony Anderson at (573) 751-2969.