CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Department of Agriculture is now accepting applications for the 2021 Specialty Crop Block Grant H.R. 133 Stimulus Program.

The program is in addition to the annual Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and was awarded by the United States Congress due to Covid-19 impacts on the food system. West Virginia is expected to receive approximately $350,000 in H.R. 133 Stimulus funding for the 2021 grant cycle.

“Our federal leaders understand the importance agriculture plays in keeping our citizens and economy healthy during a pandemic. It is a relief to see investments in local agricultural systems to further create resiliency within our food systems. We encourage groups to take advantage of these additional dollars,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt.

Proposals should focus on the specialty crop industry through leveraging efforts to market and promote specialty crops, assisting producers with research and development relevant to specialty crops, expanding availability and access to specialty crops and addressing local, regional and national challenges confronting specialty crop producers.

Priority consideration will be given to projects that consider resiliency and mitigation of Covid-19 related disruptions. Grant funds may be used to purchase personal protective equipment, Covid-related facility adjustments for worker and product safety and costs related to vaccination of employees.

“Our goal is to provide education, support research, create infrastructure, increase consumer awareness, find new niche markets or bring innovative technology to our specialty crop industry. At the end of the day, we hope projects focus on ways to benefit farmers or local economies,” Leonhardt said.

Producer groups, researchers and other industry supporters are encouraged to submit proposals. Specialty crops are defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops. Applications are due to the WVDA no later than 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17.

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