Department of Agriculture Seeking Specialty Crop Block Grant Proposals

January 31, 2018

Mark Hood and Jaime Smith, Bureau of Agricultural Development and Resource Conservation


The Connecticut Department of Agriculture (DoAg) is seeking concept proposals for 2018 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP).

The purpose of SCBGP is to enhance the domestic and foreign competitiveness of specialty crops, which are an increasingly important commodity area.

The USDA defines specialty crops as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, Christmas trees, turfgrass/sod, nursery and greenhouse crops, including floriculture.

Funding is made available through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The maximum grant award is $75,000. Matching funds are not required.

Eligible applicants include commodity groups, agricultural organizations, colleges and universities, municipalities, state agencies, and agricultural nonprofits. SCBGP funds must benefit the industry as a whole and not a single organization, business, or commercial product. Individual farms or businesses are encouraged to take part as partners with eligible applicants rather than apply themselves. 

Applicants should describe the specific issue or need the project will address and how the project will produce measurable outcomes for the specialty crop industry. Additional information and application materials are available at

Concept proposals must be submitted by email to Jaime Smith, no later than 4:00 p.m. on Friday, March 2, 2018. Qualifying applicants will be notified and invited to complete a full grant application due in April 2018. The full applications will be carefully reviewed and evaluated by a review committee, which will make recommendations for funding in May 2018. All of the applications recommended for funding by the review committee will be combined into one grant submission to USDA AMS from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture in June 2018. 

If approved by USDA AMS, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture will notify applicants (fall of 2018). Projects cannot begin until after January 1, 2019, and must be completed by September 30, 2021.

Since 2006, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture has been awarded nearly $4.4 million in SCBGP funding from the USDA AMS.  Eighty-nine projects have been funded through this award.

Examples of successful SCBGP funded projects from previous years include research to determine the feasibility of hop cultivation and production in Connecticut (conducted by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station), establishment of a honey extractor rental program (Connecticut Beekeepers Association), and research for genetic improvement of Christmas trees for Connecticut farms (Connecticut Christmas Tree Growers Association).

Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES)

In 2013, DoAg subgranted CAES $47,526 to conduct research to determine the feasibility of hop cultivation and production in Connecticut. The project evaluated five varieties (AlphAroma, Cascade, Newport, Summit, and Perle) of high alpha acid disease-resistant hop cultivars as well as traditional high trellis versus low trellis systems.  This study demonstrated the feasibility of hop production in Connecticut by using proper varieties, cultural practice, and IPM.

Connecticut Beekeepers Association

In 2012, DoAg awarded the Connecticut Beekeepers Association $9,930 to establish a honey extractor rental program. Funds were used for the purchase of four honey extractors and associated equipment (uncapping tank, hot knife, pail, filters and refractometer). The extractors are kept at four geographically diverse locations throughout Connecticut and are available to the public for a $25 rental fee.  The program income generated through rental fees has been used for repair and replacement of rental equipment and will allow the self-sustaining program to continue for many years.

Connecticut Christmas Tree Growers Association

In 2010, DoAg provided CCTGA with $36,092 for genetic improvement of Christmas trees for Connecticut farms. CCTGA partnered with researchers at CAES to identify true firs of high genetic quality in order to start a permanent seed plantation. Field tests of 3,000 plug transplants of Canaan fir and different families of Turkish and Nordman firs were conducted to determine those with the best survival, growth, color, and shape.  Five exceptional trees (Canaan fir, Trojan fir, Fraser fir, Nordmann fir, Turkish fir) found in these trials were used to establish a permanent seed production nursery to sustain competitive Connecticut Christmas tree production. This project also permitted CCTGA to collaborate with five other states and the county of Denmark in a fir genetic improvement project.