(April 17) State departments of agriculture can now apply for close to $7 million funds in specialty crop block grants, a U.S. Department of Agriculture notice said April 11.

In the Federal Register notice, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services announced that $6.895 million was available in block grant funds to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops.

Specialty crops are defined by the USDA as fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts and nursery crops, including floriculture.

State departments of agriculture interested in obtaining grant program funds must submit applications to USDA no later than Oct. 11, the notice said.

Each state and Puerto Rico has a minimum allocation of $100,000, and states with greater specialty crop production have higher levels of funding.

For example, California is allocated $652,000 of the total, followed by Florida with $253,000. Washington is at $182,000, and Texas has $156,000.

The Oct. 11 announcement of block grant fund availability is the second installment that accounts for funding during fiscal 2007, said Robert Guenther, vice president of public policy with the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C. This blast of funding for specialty crop block grants brings the total for the fiscal year to about $14 million, he said.