BOISE — The Idaho State Department of Agriculture will accept additional applications for its specialty crop block grant program this year to ensure it funds the best projects.
The ISDA received 21 applications for specialty crop grants this year before the April 11 deadline, but announced June 3 that it would accept more applications through June 20.
The department has already decided to fund some of those projects but wasn’t comfortable with some of the proposals that scored lower, said Amanda Gibson, who administers the ISDA program.
The department decided to accept more applications to ensure the funding has the greatest impact possible on Idaho’s specialty crop industry, Gibson said.
“We want to make sure we are funding the best projects,” she said. “We’d rather fund projects that can make the biggest impact on the specialty crop industry.”
States receive specialty crop funding annually through the USDA and award it through a competitive grant process.
The ISDA was notified right before this year’s application deadline that it would receive twice as much funding from the USDA in 2014 and didn’t have time to inform Idaho’s specialty crop industry of that fact before April 11.
Idaho received $991,000 in specialty crop grant funding last year but got $1.91 million this year. The additional funding was a result of more money allocated to the program by the new farm bill as well as a change in the formula used by USDA to determine how much money each state gets.
Projects must solely enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops — fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops — grown in the United States and must provide a benefit to more than just the applicant.
The ISDA was expected to announce this year’s grant recipients during the first week of June but will now announce them in early July.
The second round of applications means an additional opportunity for groups to apply for grants but it also means those that have already applied could face more competition.
“I’m curious to see how it will all play out,” said Idaho Wine Commission Executive Director Moya Shatz-Dolsby. The IWC applied for an $88,000 grant this year to expand its marketing and outreach efforts.
Gibson said each project is evaluated by at least three reviewers from the agricultural, scientific and business fields and the ISDA ensures the judges have no conflict of interest.
ISDA officials make the final recommendations on projects but their decisions are based heavily on the reviewers’ scores and comments, Gibson said.
Application guidelines are available at www.agri.idaho.gov under “Marketing and Development, Specialty Crop Grant.”
For more information, contact Gibson at email@example.com or (208) 332-8538.