Written by Theresa Rose on October 18, 2016

USDA funds will help groups promoting fruits, vegetables, nuts, and flowers

DES MOINES – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today announced that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will be awarding grants to ten Iowa projects to help enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops grown in Iowa.  The Department received $244,401.98 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 food safety, research, growing, and processing methods that will 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.

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.

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 are eligible under this program are fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.  The funds not passed through to Iowa organizations will be used by the Department to administer the grant.

The full list of the ten funded projects follows here:

Iowa State University of Science and Technology, Des Moines County Extension – $22,716 to enhance the ability of Burmese refugee families living in rural southeast Iowa to successfully start their own farming ventures by providing them with incubator farm garden plots and teaching them about growing, marketing, and selling fresh produce through classroom and experiential learning.

Lutheran Services in Iowa – $24,000 for the Global Greens Program to train and support refugee farmers and help reducing barriers to market access and administration. Lutheran Services in Iowa will develop an aggregated Community Supported Agriculture program for farmers to sell into, as well as trainings and tools specific to other available market outlets.

Practical Farmers of Iowa – $24,000 to enhance collaborative learning through Farmer-to-Farmer knowledge sharing events throughout Iowa about perennial crops.

Iowa State University of Science and Technology – $23,252 to develop species-specific fertilizer requirements for specialty annual bedding plants based on scientific research of nutrient requirements.

Iowa Valley RC&D – $23,735 to maximize the USDA Group GAP Program through the increased membership of the Iowa Food Hub’s Group GAP Consortium by providing technical assistance by developing and implementing food safety plans of five new member farms.

Iowa State University of Science and Technology – $20,474 to increase the production capacity and efficiencies of current maple syrup producers and to attract, retain, and then help expand new maple syrup producers with hands-on training sessions.

Iowa State University of Science and Technology – $15,896.23 to develop and study a low water usage solid set canopy irrigation system to provide frost protection to high density orchards.

Iowa State University of Science and Technology – $22,506 to provide educational resources and opportunities to transitioning, beginning, and existing Iowa hop growers through online educational modules, hands on learning at a commercial hop farm, and on-site visits to participant farms.

Iowa Nut Growers Association – $14,875 to investigate, test, and document processing methods, options, and strategies for hazelnut producers in Iowa.


Iowa State University of Science and Technology – $23,978 to conduct research on addressing heat stress issues inside high tunnels that lead to crop loss and poor produce quality and research into which pepper cultivars can be profitably grown inside high tunnels.