Friday, September 21, 2018

$4.6 million awarded for Washington specialty crops

Leisa Schumaker 
WSDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program 

Could extracts from wood decay fungi be used to formulate treatments for honey bee viruses? Could a novel strain of fungus be used as a biological control agent to control bee-killing Varroa mites? Washington State University researchers think so, and with the help of a new, quarter million dollar federal grant, they are continuing research that could improve honey bee health and the long-term vitality of Washington’s tree fruit, berry, vegetable, and horticultural crops.
WSU bee researchers are among 25 Washington recipients
 of 2018 USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant funds.  

WSU bee researchers are among 25 recipients of $4.6 million in 2018 USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant funds awarded by WSDA for innovative projects to support the state’s fruit, vegetable, and nursery industry through the federal Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBG).

The SCBG Program was created to support the competitiveness of the specialty crop industry through the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. In awarding these funds, WSDA selected projects that will directly benefit specialty crop producers, address critical issues to the industry, and contain strong performance measures.

Awards for individual projects range from $25,000 to $250,000 and will go to agricultural commodity commissions, non-profit organizations, Washington State University, USDA-ARS and WSDA.

This year the block grant is funding a variety of projects including some designed to ensure the sustainability of honey bee pollination, grow wholesale prospects for specialty crop producers in Whatcom and Skagit counties, evaluate agriculture water disinfection treatments, and detect potato pathogens. Berries, potatoes, cucurbit crops, tree fruit, asparagus, horticultural seeds, wine grapes, and apples all stand to benefit from these projects.

New application deadline

If you are interested in applying for a grant, please note: the application period for WSDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program has been moved up by several months this year. The Request for Concept Proposals (RFCP) released this month has a 4 p.m., November 2, 2018 deadline. In past years the proposals were due in February. The new RFCP period gives applicants an additional month to complete the concept proposals for projects that would be funded in 2019.

Other grant program changes

In addition to the new deadline, the SCBG program will no longer accept Food Safety Research projects through the competitive process. Food Safety projects for Washington should be submitted through the Center for Produce Safety’s (CPS) competitive process, where they will be reviewed for eligibility, evaluated and scored through their technical review process. Top projects benefiting Washington specialty crops that make it through CPS’s competitive process will be provided to WSDA for possible funding.

The first step in applying for grant funding is to submit a brief concept proposal through our online application system. WSDA staff will review the concept proposals. Successful applicants will be asked to submit full proposals for further review.

Visit the SCBG webpage for application information, forms and schedules. For additional SCBG information, go to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service webpage or contact WSDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program manager Leisa Schumaker at or (360) 902-2091.