Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jola Szubielski, Lisa Koumjian 518-457-0752

January 10, 2017

State Agriculture Commissioner Announces Availability of $600,000 in Specialty Crop Block Grant Program Funding

Proposals Currently Being Sought for Research and Grower Education Projects

New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball announced today that the Department, in partnership with the New York Farm Viability Institute (NYFVI), is now accepting applications for projects to utilize up to $600,000 under the Specialty Crop Block Grant program through a competitive bid process.  The program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  The Department and NYFVI are seeking proposals for research and grower education projects that aim to enhance the competitiveness of New York’s specialty crop producers and increase the long-term success of the State’s agricultural industry.  New York State’s specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, dried fruits, hops, maple syrup, honey, horticulture and nursery crops. Since the USDA began the program in 2006, the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets has provided $9.76 million for 107 specialty crop projects across the State.

The full Request for Proposals for the 2017 Specialty Crop Block Grant program and online application are available at

Commissioner Ball said, “The Specialty Crop Block Grant program has been key to the State’s ability to fund important research and education projects that not only help our farmers increase their ability to compete in the marketplace but have also led to innovative practices that have helped to increase efficiency and reduce costs.  I’m pleased about the progress we’ve made so far with this funding support and look forward to another round of great projects.”

For the second year, the annual grant application process will begin earlier than in years prior to better align with the off-season for the review process.  Opening the application period in January allows NYFVI to coordinate its review of similar research projects submitted to its other grant programs.

NYFVI Board of Directors Chair Jim Bittner said, “Our farmer-review process ensures that the projects that are funded are important to growers and will have ongoing input from the agriculture community. We are pleased to continue our partnership with the Department for this program.”

Individual projects can be awarded up to $100,000.  Proposals may address a wide range of challenges and opportunities related to the competitiveness of the State’s specialty crop industry, including research and grower education projects that will increase efficiencies, reduce costs, foster innovation and enhance the long-term viability of specialty crop agri-businesses across the State.

The following priority areas have been identified: 

  • research and/or education addressing a key conventional or organic production problem or need specific to New York State;
  • developing and increasing the utilization of Integrated Pest Management strategies and programs;
  • prioritizing and addressing native and exotic pests and disease threats through development of pest risk assessments;
  • supporting plant breeding for the development of specialty crops resistant to exotic and native pests;
  • applied research and development to extend the growing season of New York specialty crops through new technologies, improved management practices, or other innovative production strategies; and
  • developing new seed varieties and specialty crops with optimal performance under New York State conditions.

President of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation Jim Tresize said, “The Specialty Crop Block Grant program has been very important and valuable to the New York grape and wine industry and research community that helps to improve business.  We are grateful for the program to help grow business so that we can, in turn, contribute more to the state economy.”

Administrative Director of Long Island Farm Bureau Rob Carpenter said, “Specialty crops make up an important component of New York State agriculture.  It is so imperative that research funding be utilized to solve issues within the industry so that specialty crops can continue to thrive, and be economically viable for our farmers.  Existing farmers as well as many new and beginning farmers grow specialty crops, and if we want to see agriculture continue in New York, we need to provide the ability for these operations to be successful.  From fruit and vegetable growers, to hops, grapes, maple syrup, nursery and flowers and all other specialty crops, the diversity of agriculture in New York makes it vital we support these industries with research and grower education dollars.”

Executive Director of the Christmas Tree Farmers Association of New York Mary Jeanne Packer, said “New York State’s Christmas tree farmers benefit from Specialty Crop Block Grant funding for research and education initiatives. With these resources, the Christmas Tree Farmers Association of NY (CTFANY) has been able to partner with SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry to begin a study that will help to establish freshness standards for cut trees in the marketplace that is based on moisture content in the trees. Having a metric such as this is very important to the industry because it will enable inspectors to certify that a tree being sold as “farm fresh” really is; and consumers will benefit by having only truly fresh, high quality trees in their homes. In addition, SCBG resources made it possible for CTFANY to meet with prospective wholesale tree purchasers at the New York Produce show. There is considerable interest in real NYS-grown trees by retailers in the greater NYC area, but until now, these buyers haven’t known where to find the trees, what their options are for size and variety, and how to care for the trees once delivered to their stores. CTFANY’s involvement in the show was an important step in addressing these needs.”

The Specialty Crop Block Grant program is administered through the Department in coordination with the NYFVI. The NYFVI will evaluate the proposals and submit its recommendations to the Department for inclusion in the agency’s application to the USDA. 

Eligible applicants include not-for-profit organizations, not-for-profit educational institutions, and local and Indian tribal governments. Grant funds will only be awarded to applicants whose projects have statewide significance to the specialty crop industry and do not propose to only benefit a single organization, institution, individual or commercial product.  Applications are due Tuesday, February 14, 2017. Projects must be completed within two years from the award date. 

For more information on the Specialty Crop Block Grant program, please visit:   For application details, please visit:

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