AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has announced a significant boost to the agricultural sector with the awarding of Specialty Crop Block Program Grants (SCBGP) totaling more than $600,000 to a diverse group of recipients including Farms For Food Equity, Maine Flower Collective, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Meeting House Herbs, and University of Maine professors, Dr. Seanna Annis, Dr. Jay Hao, Dr. Jennifer Perry, and Dr. Renae Moran. Each project is designed to catalyze growth within Maine’s agricultural sectors while having a beneficial impact on multiple farm businesses. SCBG funding also supports innovative research to benefit specialty crop producers.
“These grants are a testament to the unwavering commitment of our state to foster innovation and growth in our agricultural sector,” commented DACF Commissioner Amanda Beal, according to a news release from the Ag department. “The awards represent not just financial support but our belief in the potential of our farmers and researchers to lead the way in ensuring a sustainable and vibrant future for Maine agriculture.”
“SCBGP supports local and regional projects to help farmers and producers become more competitive now and in the future,” commented Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources Director Craig Lapine. “These funds are important to supporting local farmers and food producers, aiding them in their journey towards success and expanding the market for specialty crops not only within Maine but across the entire United States.”
“From piloting marketing and education initiatives to enhancing produce safety and quality to testing market expansion and profitability, the SCBGP will infuse Maine’s specialty crop ‘industry’s innovation, capacity, and shared knowledge between producers, researchers, consumers, and stakeholders,” commented Maine Agricultural Resource Development Director and Maine SCBGP Program Coordinator Michelle Webb.
Specific 2023 SCBGP projects in Maine include:
• Farms For Food Equity: Building Specialty Crop Markets through Immigrant Education Programs, $86,700.
• Maine DACF: Developing a Farmers Market Price Reporting Tool for Maine Specialty Crop Growers, $17,687.
• Maine Flower Collective: New In-Person Wholesale Flower Market Pilot Project, $80,316.
• Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association: Maine Produce Safety Improvement and FSMA PSR Certification Project, $87,308.57.
• Meeting House Herbs: Increasing Sustainability of Commercial Herbal Farming, $86,886.
• Dr. Seanna Annis, University of Maine: Focusing on How to Mitigate the Effects of Leaf Spots on Wild Blueberry Health, Yield, and Climate Resilience, $83,648.
• Dr. Jay Hao, University of Maine: Quantitative Detection and Management of Powdery Scab and Mop-Top Virus of Potato, $80,624.
• Dr. Jennifer Perry, University of Maine: Fresh Maine Wild Blueberries: Industry, Extension, Academic Collaboration to Protect and Enhance Safety and Quality, $38,433.
• Dr. Renae Moran, University of Maine: Introducing New Tools for Increasing Apple Production Profitability, receiving $36,355.
“Thanks to this grant, the Maine Flower Collective will be able to pilot a market that will serve as a complement to our growing pre-order offerings,” added Maine Flower Collective treasurer Carolyn Snell. “We’re hoping this program will further optimize the MFC’s ability to grow Maine’s floral trade by more dynamically balancing ‘farmers’ need for harvest flexibility with floral designers’ ordering needs.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service Specialty Crop Block Grant Program seeks to enhance the competitiveness of non-commodity crops, encompassing fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops, including floriculture. This program follows a block grant model, allowing the federal government to grant funding to individual state agricultural agencies, empowering them to make local decisions about allocating the funds. Typically, the DACF releases an SCBGP Request for Proposals in February, with applications due in March or April. Since its inception in 2002, the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program has disbursed over $8 million to DACF, actively supporting the growing number of specialty crop producers who contribute to local and regional markets.
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