Gov. McKee, DEM Announce Availability of $270,000 in Grants to Boost Marketability of Small Specialty Crop Producers

Published on Wednesday, March 01, 2023

PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) today are announcing the availability of $270,000 in grants for farms and food-related organizations aimed at ensuring an abundant, affordable supply of nutritious fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, nuts, honey, and other “specialty crops” that are vital to Rhode Islanders’ health and well-being. DEM administers the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) with annual funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“This grant program does two very important things at once: it supports small businesses, which are the glue of our communities, and helps expand our food system to become more resilient, secure, and sustainable,” said Governor Dan McKee. “Along with many other initiatives run by DEM including the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act program that we highlighted last week, the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program offers tangible benefits to both the grantees and all Rhode Islanders.”

“When I go to the grocery store or visit my local farmers’ market, I’m always looking for foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, and nuts. These are key components of maintaining a healthy diet and I know that most Rhode Islanders are looking for the same things,” said DEM Director Terry Gray. “DEM is always working to get more locally-grown food on the table and support local farmers and food businesses in becoming more competitive.”

Marketing is important to all enterprises, farming or otherwise, regardless of size. Generally, however, small-scale fruit, vegetable, and other specialty crop growers have more difficulty finding established markets than larger operations. Typically, they tailor their marketing to their unique situations. The SCBGP grants are designed to enhance these producers’ competitiveness. They may be used for increasing consumption through consumer awareness of Rhode Island-grown produce and plants through “buy local” promotions; creating new marketing opportunities for produce suppliers through nontraditional markets; research and development to introduce new crops to better match product availability with consumer demand; and increasing on-farm food safety practices for plants already grown and offered in the state. Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, horticulture, nursery crops, floriculture including Christmas trees, cut flowers, honey, hops, and turf grass production.

Possibly because of Newport’s popularity as a wedding destination, Rhode Island is becoming known for floriculture. This is a branch of horticulture concerned with growing and marketing flowers and ornamental plants, flower arrangement, and the cultivation and propagation of flowering plants for gardens, greenhouses, nurseries, and landscapes. Floriculture crops include bedding plants, houseplants, potted flowers, potted plants, cut cultivated greens, and cut flowers. DEM encourages floriculture businesses to apply for an SCBGP grant.

There is no maximum grant award and neither DEM nor the USDA requires a cost-sharing or matching requirement. Typically, the average award is between $35,000 and $50,000. All projects are subject to the availability of funds. Grant funds cannot be expended before Sept. 30, 2023, or after Sept. 29, 2026. Due to limited funding, DEM reserves the right to offer an award amount less than the amount requested. Applications will be accepted through March 15. Please apply using this link.

Since 2016, DEM has awarded more than $1 million in grants through the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. SCBGP assists state departments of agriculture in the 50 States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. For more information on the DEM SCBGP, click here.

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