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Shapiro Administration Invites Proposals for $460,000 in PA Farm Bill Grants for High Priority Specialty Crops

03/18/2024

Hardwoods, honey, brewing grains, hemp, and flax are investment priorities for their potential to boost fast-growing ag sectors.

Harrisburg, PA – Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding has invited proposals for $460,000 in 2024 Commonwealth Specialty Crop Block Grants to stimulate market growth or boost the competitive position for high-priority crops. Hardwoods, honey, brewing grains, hemp, and flax are deemed top priorities for their potential to boost fast-growing ag sectors, feed Pennsylvania's economy, and increase environmental sustainability.

Funded in his 2023-24 budget with broad, bipartisan support, Governor Josh Shapiro has proposed funding these and other PA Farm Bill grants again in a 2024-25 in a budget that expands opportunities and spurs innovation in Pennsylvania's $132.5 billion agriculture industry. Governor Shapiro's proposal also includes a $10 million agriculture innovation fund that will help farmers modernize their businesses, not just to survive changes in markets and climate, but to grow and thrive.

"These grants are strategic investments in the future for Pennsylvania farmers," Secretary Redding said. "Pennsylvania hardwoods supply the world with high-quality building materials. Fiber hemp restores soil and is a growing source of sustainable construction materials, fabric, and plastics. Hops and brewing grains are critical ingredients for our booming craft brewing industry.

"Investing in these products feeds prosperity and progress in communities across Pennsylvania. Investing in our farm businesses and their capacity to grow, innovate, and feed a rapidly growing population — as Governor Shapiro has proposed in his 2023-24 budget — is how communities across Pennsylvania will prosper tomorrow."

Specialty crops eligible for Pennsylvania's grant program and deemed high-priority include hardwoods; honey; hemp and flax for fiber; and hops, barley, rye and wheat for brewing, distilling, and malting.

Also targeted for priority funding are crops not eligible for funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which the department administers for the federal government. The USDA program defines specialty crops as, "fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture)."

A percentage of funds will be designated to projects serving urban and rural communities with at least 20% of their population living below the federal poverty line.

Past projects funded under the program include researching environmental impacts of hemp; teaching brewing-crop techniques; pest and disease control strategies for hemp and hardwoods; a honey and pollen diagnostics lab; and promoting careers in sustainable forestry.

Eligible applicants must submit a proposal describing how their project will enhance competitiveness or benefit Pennsylvania's growers, rather than an individual grower. Find more information, including a proposal template, and map of previous recipients at agriculture.pa.gov/pafarmbill, under Commonwealth Specialty Crop Block Program.

Proposals must be submitted through the Department of Community and Economic Development's Electronic Single Application, and must be received by 5:00 p.m. on April 19, 2024.

Full grant guidelines can also be found in the March 2, 2024 Pennsylvania Bulletin.

 Media Contact: Shannon Powers, shpowers@pa.gov, 717.603.2056

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