Hugh Weathers, Commissioner of Agriculture, has announced that South Carolina is the recipient of a USDA Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) grant.

South Carolina will receive over $400,000 in grant funds through the Specialty Crops Block Grant Program to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. Specialty crops are defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops including floriculture.

The Specialty Crop Block Grant is part of the USDA’s ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ initiative established with the purpose of developing local and regional food systems that spur economic opportunity. The effort builds on the 2008 farm bill, which provides for increases and flexibility for USDA programs in an effort to promote local foods.

Commissioner Weathers said, “The Specialty Crop Grant Program is a great opportunity to connect producers and consumers while encouraging economic growth particularly in rural South Carolina.”

Consumer demand for locally grown food in the United States is expected to rise from an estimated $4 billion in 2002 to as much as $7 billion by 2012, according to AMS.

The South Carolina Department of Agriculture was required to submit an application for review and approval by AMS which included various projects that support local and rural agriculture interests, increase the competitiveness of small producers, and promote or create direct marketing opportunities for specialty crop producers. The projects funded under the umbrella Specialty Crop Block Grant are expected to be announced in the near future.

For more information about the Specialty Crops Grant Program, contact Larry Boyleston, South Carolina Department of Agriculture, 803-734-2191, lboylest@scda.sc.gov.