Hugh E. Weathers, South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture, announces a grant program for institutions and groups that support specialty crops.

This program is funded by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service as established by the 2008 farm bill.

Those interested in participating in the program are encouraged to visit the SCDA website, http://www.agriculture.sc.gov, to obtain the grant information and application. The project must fall within the listed criteria and must benefit groups of producers and not individuals.

Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, horticulture, nursery crops (including floriculture). Projects should be developed to solely enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops pertaining to the following issues affecting the specialty crop industry: Increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops; improving efficiency and reducing cost of distribution systems; 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; enhancing food safety; developing new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops; pest and disease control; development of organic and sustainable production practices; developing local and regional food systems, and improving food access in underserved communities.

Projects can be multi-year but should not exceed three years in duration. Funds cannot be used for capital expenditures such as buildings, equipment or land. Indirect costs cannot exceed 10 percent.

Submit project proposals to the email address listed below by May 17, 2011. Proposals must be submitted in Microsoft Word. Any proposals submitted in a PDF format will not be accepted for consideration. Notification of project eligibility will be sent by mail to each project administrator by June 24, 2011.

Submit proposals to: Amy Howard London, Marketing Specialist, South Carolina Department of Agriculture, P.O. Box 11280, Columbia, S.C. 29211, 803-734-2210.