VA Specialty Crop Competitive Grant Program

Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS)

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Anticipated deadline: Mar 30, 2021 2:00pm PDT

Grant amount: Up to US $60,000

Fields of work: Agricultural Crops

Applicant type: Nonprofit, Government Entity, Indigenous Group, For-Profit Business

Funding uses: Project / Program, Education / Outreach, Research

Location of project: Virginia

Location of residency: Virginia

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Specialty Crop Block Grant Program 

The purpose of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is to solely enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops.

State agriculture agencies apply directly to the USDA for these grant funds. In an effort to reach specialty crop initiatives throughout the state, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) established a competitive grant process: 

  • VDACS accepts grant proposals for the development of specialty crop projects that will support and enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops in Virginia.  
  • Once all proposals are submitted, VDACS carefully reviews and evaluates each proposal based on the criteria in the application. All VDACS-approved projects are developed into one Virginia grant submission to the USDA.
  • Upon approval from USDA, VDACS notifies applicants (sub-grantees) of their status. No final awards to any sub-grantee are made until a final grant award is made to VDACS (grantor) by USDA.

Please note that all deadlines and funding are contingent upon the final U.S. Farm Bill and Notice of Funds Availability from USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service.

Project(s) must solely enhance the competitiveness of U.S. or U.S. territory-grown specialty crops in either domestic or foreign markets. See the SCBGP website for a definition of specialty crops and processed products, including a list of eligible specialty crops and ineligible commodities. Each project must identify at least one expected measurable outcome that specifically demonstrates the project’s impact in solely enhancing the competitiveness of eligible specialty crops. 

Applications for grant funds should describe how the project potentially affects and produces measurable outcomes for the specialty crop industry and/or the public rather than a single organization, institution, or individual. 

Project Types

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) administers the SCBGP. VDACS and USDA encourage projects solely to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops pertaining to the following issues affecting the specialty crop industry:

  • enhancing food safety;
  • assisting all entities in the specialty crop distribution chain in developing “Good Agricultural Practices,” “Good Handling Practices,” “Good Manufacturing Practices,” and in cost-share arrangements for funding audits of such systems for small farmers; packers and processors;
  • investing in specialty crop research, including research to focus on conservation and environmental outcomes;
  • developing new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops;
  • pest and disease control; and development of organic and sustainable production practices;
  • increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops;
  • improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems;
  • developing local and regional food systems; and
  • improving food access in underserved communities. 

Examples of Acceptable Projects

  • The State requests funding to contract with a university to conduct research on the feasibility of planting, cultivating, and growing a specialty crop in a particular area, the results of which will be shared with many  growers throughout the State during the project. 
  • A producer group requests funds to demonstrate the viability of organic small fruit production and partners with Cooperative Extension to publicize the working model of diversification to other regional growers. 
  • A single company requests funds to provide a viable pollination alternative to specialty crop stakeholders in a region that currently does not have one. 
  • A single non-profit organization requests funds to conduct an advertising campaign that will benefit their specialty crop members. 

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • Applications are accepted from agricultural associations, industry and producer groups, community-based organizations and academia that seek to improve the competitiveness of specialty crops in Virginia.
  • Applications should describe how the project potentially impacts and produces measurable outcomes for the specialty crop industry and/or the public rather than a single organization, institution or individual.


  • VDACS will not award grant funds for projects that solely benefit a particular commercial product or provide a profit to a single organization, institution, or individual.
    • In addition, recipients cannot use grant funds to compete unfairly with private companies that provide equivalent products or services.
    • Single organizations, institutions, and individuals are encouraged to participate as project partners.
  • Projects where one organization specifically attempts to disparage the mission, goals, and/or actions of another organization are unallowable. 
  • The following are some examples of unacceptable projects: 
    • A company requests grant funds to purchase starter plants or equipment used to plant, cultivate, and grow a specialty crop to make a profit, or to expand production of a single business or organization. 
    • The State requests grant funds to make grants to individual specialty crop businesses or roadside stands to promote their individual business. 
    • A sole proprietor requests grant funds to redesign her/his logo in order to make her/his specialty crop valueadded product stand out at the local farmers’ market. 
    • A single non-profit organization requests funds to promote their organization’s website rather than promoting specialty crops. 
    • A single specialty crop organization requests grant funds to market its organization so that it can increase membership in the organization.