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Louisiana awarded Specialty Crop Block Grant to enhance specialty crops

October 11, 2011

Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) was awarded $341,212.54 of grant money for research, educational and marketing projects to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops in Louisiana. 
Strain said the funding came from a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) and awarded 55 grants that will fund 740 initiatives across the United States and its territories. The grants will help strengthen the market for specialty crops like fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.
The Louisiana projects to be funded with this grant award are as follows:
·                     LSU AgCenter will develop a media campaign to increase "Louisiana Super Plants" logo recognition and expand it into all markets in Louisiana
·                     1stCo Inc. Video Productions will develop and produce a TV series to educate consumers on the types of specialty crops available in Louisiana and then demonstrate new and delicious ways to prepare them.
·            to introduce underserved children living in urban areas to Louisiana specialty crops via educational field trips to the Crescent City Farmers Market with a specific focus on strawberries and citrus.
·                     LSU AgCenter to evaluate disease and insect resistance, yield and time to market of the increasing number of vegetable and fruit varieties available for production in local markets and educate local growers on results.
LDAF will perform pre-ward and post-award activities to administer the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funding and ensure that the LDAF and sub-awardees abide by federal and state requirements and regulations. All programs will be completed during a one to three year span.
Strain said to evaluate applications, LDAF formed a four-member panel with combined expertise in biological sciences, horticulture, fruit production, vegetable production, dairy production and commodity marketing to review applications.
 “Agriculture is the backbone of Louisiana’s economy, that is why it is so important to invest in the specialty crop industry,” Strain said. “All of the proposals were beneficial, but the panel and I agreed these projects will serve the state’s specialty crops needs best at this time.”
Michelle Estay, LDAF commodity promotion and research director, said she expects the specialty crop grant program to be funded next year and anticipated accepting applications for 2012 project proposals early next year.
For more information, contact Estay at 985-345-9483.