The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is offering grants to fund new projects to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops in the marketplace.

The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is managed by NCDA&CS and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the 2008 farm bill. Last year NCDA&CS awarded more than $1 million to 22 projects that benefited North Carolina’s specialty crops industry and helped local farmers grow more profitable crops.

NCDA&CS will accept grant applications starting at $10,000 from non-profit organizations and corporations, commodity associations, state and local government agencies, colleges and universities. Applicants must reside in North Carolina, or their business or educational affiliation must be within the state. Application deadline is 5 p.m. May 20.

“This competitive-grant program is designed to help small famers and local food efforts,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Nearly $1.2 million is available this year from USDA to support the North Carolina specialty crop industry.”

Projects involving the following specialty crops are eligible: fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, Christmas trees, turfgrass/sod, and nursery and greenhouse crops. Funding is also available for projects aimed at developing local and regional food systems and improving food access.

Grants are not available for projects that directly benefit or provide a profit to a single organization, institution or individual.

For grant guidelines and an application, visit www.NCspecialtycropgrant.org. Questions may be directed to Jeff Camden, NCDA&CS marketing specialist, at (919) 707-3111, SpecialtyCropGrant@ncagr.gov, or Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, 1020 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C.  27699-1020.