in the December 2020 Omnibus Spending / COVID Relief Bill
What’s SCBGP? It’s the Specialty Crops Block Grant Program which grants money to businesses, nonprofits, or universities to investigate innovative ways of improving plant-based food production. AFA fully supports this program. Why? Because It grants money for projects like the following:
- $110,000 awarded through the Ohio State Dept of Agriculture to “establish a research program to support Ohio specialty crop mushroom production. Mushrooms as with plant-based cropping systems suffer from pest and disease pressure, but there are not many options for sustainable mushroom disease management.” 1
- $27,778 awarded through the Nebraska State Dept of Agriculture to “increase the utilization of dry edible beans by developing a high value-added (plant-based) yogurt product.” 2
- $242,250 awarded through the California State Dept of Agriculture to expand school markets for California specialty crops and promote student consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables. 3
Those are three descriptions of sizeable grants made in 2020 and 2019 via the Specialty Crops Block Grant Program. Do you see why we think additional SCBGP funding is something to love?
A bright spot in the COVID bill
While the nation poured over the recent 2020 COVID Relief Package to find things they could express outrage over (present company included), AFA was gratified to see the SCBGP expanded by $100 million. Annual SCBGP grants sum up to about $70 million a year, so a $100 million kicker is no small amount. In other words, many organizations along the plant-based food supply chain can apply for substantial funds to investigate better ways of producing plant-based foods. Yeah!
Here’s the relevant portion of the COVID bill as explained in a handy primer published by the House Agriculture Committee:
SEC. 101. SPECIALTY CROP BLOCK GRANTS. – The bill provides $100 million in additional funding to support specialty crop farmers and address COVID-19 specialty crop supply chain issues at the state level via the farm bill’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.– Agriculture and Nutrition Provisions in December 2020 COVID Relief Package
Specialty Crops – What Are They?
Specialty Crops are defined by the USDA as “fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).” In general, you can think, ‘fruits, nuts, n veggies.’
SCBGP – Who Is Eligible?
Businesses, nonprofits, and universities are eligible to apply for SCBGP grants. More information is here: https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/grants/scbgp
Let’s take a look at a sampling of grants from previous years…
Number of Grants Awarded: 56
Number of Sub-award Project: 687
Amount of Funds Awarded: $72,488,098
#of grants mentioning keywords:
vegan: 0, plant-based: 7, regenerative: 4
Recipient: University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL)
UNL received 12 of the 16 grants that the USDA awarded to Nebraska in 2020. 4 One such grant is for developing techniques for making plant-based yogurt from dry edible beans.5
Project Title: Value-Added Product Development: Can Nebraska Dry Edible Beans Make Premium Plant-Based Yogurt … Grant Amount: $27,778
The UNL Food Processing Center will increase the utilization of dry edible beans by developing a high value-added yogurt product. The technique of making a premium plant-based yogurt with dry edible beans, and the nutrition values of developed products will be explored. The ultimate goal is to introduce dry edible beans into the fast-growing dairy alternatives market as important resources and enhance the competitiveness of these specialty crops through increasing their consumption and economic value. The dairy alternatives market is projected to grow from USD 17.3 billion in 2018 to USD 29.6 billion by 2023, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 11.4% during this period (from MarketsandMarkets™). This is attributed to the nutritional benefits offered by plant-based dairy alternatives. They offer various nutritional benefits such as reduced cholesterol levels, improved cardiovascular health, and diabetes control.Nebraska State Department of Agriculture Grant Description
Recipient :Ohio State University
Similarly, Ohio State University is using the SCBGP to investigate sustainable mushroom disease management
Project Title: “Microbiome based improvement of mushroom cultivation” … Grant Amount: $110,000
The Ohio State University’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Ecology and Mycology programs (PI: Dr. Jonathan M. Jacobs; Dr. Jason Slot) seek funding to establish a research program to support Ohio specialty crop mushroom production. Mushrooms as with plant-based cropping systems suffer from pest and disease pressure, but there are not many options for sustainable mushroom disease management.6USDA SCGBP Awards Overview for 2020 (p 190)
Number of Grants Awarded: 56
Number of Sub-award Projects: 717
Amount of Funds Awarded: $72,487,215.28
#of grants mentioning keywords:
vegan: 0, plant-based: 3, regenerative: 0
Recipient: The Center for Ecoliteracy (CEL)
Project Title: California Food for California Kids® Culinary Academy: Enhancing Specialty Crop Preparation and Promotion in Schools … (Project Budget: $242,250)
The Center for Ecoliteracy (CEL) will establish the California Food for California Kids® Culinary Academy to expand school markets for California specialty crops and promote student consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables. CEL will use a scalable and sustainable, train-the-trainer model in partnership with Frontier Energy to reach food service staff in the California Thursdays® Network, which represents thirty-three percent of the $2.4 billion school meal industry. In seven workshops, food service staff will: 1) learn culinary techniques and plant-based recipes to enhance the flavor and student consumption of ten specialty crops; 2) obtain new skills and resources to promote specialty crops to students; and 3) engage with marketing boards to optimize specialty crop promotion and preparation. Success in increasing awareness and consumption of specialty crops will be measured through sales in lead districts, workshop participant knowledge and intention to purchase, and taste tests with over 19,000 students.
Read about SCGBP Awards going back to 2006 at ams.usda.gov/services/grants/scbgp/awards
AFA lobbies for fairness in farm policy, which means lobbying for a food system that responds to plant-based consumer choices. SCGBP is an integral part of making that future a reality. We applaud Congress for boosting funding to this program.
To find out how AFA can help your plant-based food company, nonprofit, or university department apply for an SCGBP grant, contact us for more information.
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