TYLER, Texas — More than $330 million in grants will be awarded to agricultural producers to help the food supply chain recover from the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Thursday.
"This funding will aid in developing new markets for U.S. agricultural products, expand the specialty crop food sector, and incent the purchase of fruits and vegetables by low-income consumers," the USDA said in a press release.
The funding is part of the USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative launched in March and includes $169.9 million for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. the availability of $75 million for Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program grantees and approximately $80 million in payments to domestic users of upland and extra-long staple cotton.
When the Pandemic Assistance for Producers was first launched in March, it had $6.5 billion available in funding for small and medium agricultural operations in underserved communities. The aim was to address funding disparities in previous COVID-19 assistance packages.
“We launched USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers to respond in a broader, fairer way to the pandemic’s impact across food and agriculture, and we are following through on our promise,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Vilsack continued by saying this additional funding will focus on reaching a broader set of producers and businesses than previous COVID-19 aid programs.
The $169.9 million for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which is geared toward innovative projects designed to support the expanding specialty crop food sector and explore new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products, includes:
- $72.9 million available as part of the annual Farm Bill funding for the program
- An additional $97 million available as emergency funding for applications under this solicitation.
Grant project funding awarded as part of pandemic assistance can also go to organizations to assist farmworkers (e.g., for PPE and vaccination costs), projects to fund farmers, food businesses, and other relevant entities to respond to risks and supply chain disruption.
Applications for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program must be submitted electronically through www.grants.gov by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on June 11, 2021.
The $75 million for Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program grantees may request funding to allow them to address critical food and nutrition security needs of low-income communities, enhance the resilience of food and healthcare systems impacted by the pandemic, and maximize funds reaching participants in communities in need. NIFA will reach out directly to GusCRR eligible applicants with additional details and a copy of the Request for Applications (RFA).
USDA will provide approximately $80 million in additional payments to domestic users of upland and extra-long staple cotton to support textile mills impacted by the pandemic. Under this one-time payment program, USDA will pay $.06 per pound to domestic users based on a 3-year monthly average during 2017 through 2019, covering 10 months in 2020.
There are also ongoing plans for the Dairy Donation Program (DDP) as established in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
To check availability for grant applications and to find out more information, click here.