USDA awards Kansas Dept. of Agriculture more than US$273,000 through specialty crop block grant aimed at enhancing competitiveness of crops including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts

TOPEKA, Kansas , October 10, 2011 (press release) – Three Kansas groups that support production of locally grown fruits and vegetables have been awarded grants by the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded $273,616.54 to the Kansas Department of Agriculture through the Specialty Crop Block Grant program. The program is designed to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, which are various horticulture products including fruits and vegetables, turf grass, tree nuts, dried fruits, nursery crops and flowers.

“These initiatives will connect Kansas producers with new markets and new customers,” Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman said. “Local producers and specialty crops are an important component of agriculture, Kansas’ top industry.”

The grant recipients for 2012 are:

* Kansas Rural Center, $171,520.54 for “Our Local Food: Cultivating Specialty Crop Connections for Kansas Farms, Businesses and Consumers.” This project will combine resources from multiple partners across the state to provide technical assistance and capacity-building to local producers and buyers.
* Salina Downtown, Inc., $70,500 for “Planet to Plate It.” This project will help producers develop value-added specialty crop products, as well as expanding existing markets to offer year-round sales.
* Highland Community College — Wamego Campus, $31,596 for “Vineyard Workshop and Grape Extension Project.” This project will provide assistance to prospective, beginning and existing grape growers and winemakers across the state.

Grants were available to projects involving research, nutrition, trade enhancement, food safety and security, pest and disease, education, "buy local" programs, promotion, marketing, more efficient and cost-effective distribution systems, environmental and conservational concerns, product development and developing cooperatives.

Nineteen organizations submitted proposals for the 2012 grant cycle, requesting more than $1.08 million in funding.

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