The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) is authorized by the Farm Bill for enhancing the competitiveness of American specialty crops. It’s one of the main ways Congress supports specialty crops across the US. Funds are allocated to the states based on the size of their specialty crops production. For instance, California received $22.3 million of the $72.5 million in available funds for 2017 because they are the largest specialty crops producing state. Each state determines how they will distribute the funds. Recently USDA announced they’ve funded 693 Specialty Crops Block Grant projects for 2017. Four projects support native plants and pollinators:
- Arizona. The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Turf Science will evaluate the adaptation and performance of native grasses and alternative groundcovers to generate local research-based information for water and nutrition requirements and pest management practices for each species. The objective will be to use these species as a turfgrass replacements on non-play areas on golf courses or in residential and commercial landscapes. The expectations at the conclusion of the experiments are that at least five to six species of plants that are tolerant to drought, heat, and salt will be acceptable and available for golf courses and other landscapers.
- Georgia. A partnership with the University of Georgia seeks to identify native azalea plants for breeding compact varieties that sustain native pollinators. The project will use a genetics-based approach to develop native ornamental plants that have both ecological and economic value.
- Idaho. The Idaho Nursery and Landscape Association and the University of Idaho will 1) develop water conserving, sustainable, native plant products for the Idaho landscape nursery industry and 2) concurrently deliver plant propagation protocols for new native plant products to enhance success of marketing and delivery.
- Oregon. The Oregon Bee Pilot Project seeks to increase the knowledge of Oregon specialty crop-pollinator associations; educate the public, growers, and grower organizations about important Oregon pollinator species and the roles that Oregon crop diversity and specialty crops have in maintaining their overall health and abundance; and to promote stewardship of native and domesticated bees while providing value-added incentives to growers of specialty crops.
To see the entire list of funded projects, visit the USDA Specialty Crops Block Grant Program 2016 list of funded projects. USDA Specialty Crops Block Grant Program website. Program general website.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has a great plain English webpage with background on how the Specialty Crops Block Program works if you’re interested.
October 30, 2016 NewTerrain.