May 2, 2024
Bill would increase Specialty Crop Block Grant program authorization by $15M

Two U.S. senators have introduced a bill to increase the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant program authorization by $15 million.

The Specialty Crops Security Act, introduced by Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Laphonza Butler, D-California, would increase SCBG funding from $85 million to $100 million a year and give specialty crop stakeholders more opportunities to give input on how state departments of agriculture use the funds.

Susan Collins

“This increase in the authorization for the Specialty Crop Block Grant program will strengthen Maine’s agricultural sector by providing additional support for the development of more resilient fruits and vegetables, while boosting farmers’ sales through increased marketing,” Collins said in a news release.

“California’s farmers produce nearly half of the country’s specialty crops, and they deserve a seat at the table when state departments of agriculture make decisions about how to allocate funding that directly impacts them,” Butler said.

Senator Angus King, Ind.-Maine, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said it will help save and revitalize farms.

“As the agricultural industry faces new challenges every day, we must level the playing field by providing needed resources and support — and a voice — to our American businesses,” King said.

Laphonza Butler

Eric Venturini, executive director of the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine; Jeannie Tapley, assistant executive director of the Maine Potato Board; Ted McKinney, CEO of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture; and the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (SCFBA) also released statements of support.

“Over its 20-year life, the Specialty Crop Block Grant program has enhanced the competitiveness of specialty crop growers across the country,” the SCFBA said. “Its track record of success, tailored by each state’s unique priorities, merits increased investment from the federal government.”

The grant program, first funded in 2006, is designed to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops and funds activities that facilitate outcomes including:

  • Increased access to and consumption of specialty crops.
  • Research supporting the resilience of specialty crops.
  • More robust regional and local food systems.
  • Food safety improvements.

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