VDACS Is Accepting Applications For Specialty Crop Block Grants

Interested groups should submit specialty crop block grant applications before Feb. 27

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) anticipates administering nearly $550,000 in USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Specialty Crop Block Grant funding to increase the competitiveness of Virginia specialty crops. Agricultural associations, industry and producer groups, localities, community-based organizations, educational institutions and non-profits are eligible for this grant opportunity. Eligible groups must submit proposals for grants of up to $75,000 per project by 5 p.m. on Monday, February 27, 2023. Individual producers are not eligible for this grant.

Specialty crops are fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery crops, including floriculture, that are not typically covered by traditional crop insurance. Specialty crops do not include standard commodities such as corn, wheat, soybeans, peanuts, cotton or tobacco. Processed foods are eligible, provided their development enhances the competitiveness of one or more specialty crops.

Specialty crop competitive grant proposals must be specific and explain how an association, industry group or organization will use the funds to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. Some examples include research, promotion and marketing plans, as well as food safety projects and projects that improve food access.

In awarding the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant funds, VDACS will give priority to projects with the sole purpose of enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops as they pertain to the following issues:

  • Enhancing food safety.
  • Improving the capacity of all entities in the specialty crop distribution chain to comply with the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act and in cost-share arrangements for finding audits of such systems (including USDA GroupGAP) for small farmers, packers, and processors.
  • Investing in specialty crop research, including research to focus on conservation and environmental outcomes.
  • Developing new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops.
  • Improving pest and disease control.
  • Increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops.
  • Improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems; and
  • Enhancing sustainability.

Guidelines, instructions and the application for the USDA Specialty Crop Competitive Grants are available online at www.vdacs.virginia.gov/sales-specialty-crop-competitive-grant-program.shtml, via e-mail to Melissa Ball at melissa.ball@vdacs.virginia.gov or by mailing VDACS, Specialty Crop Grants Application, 102 Governor Street, Richmond, VA  23219.

Applications received after the 5 p.m. on Monday, February 27, 2023, will not be considered for funding. The duration of each grant is two years, and the grant period will begin October 1, 2023.

Veterinary Services Grant Program Request for Applications

The National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) published the fiscal year (FY) 2023 Veterinary Services Grant Program (VSGP) Request for Applications. The purpose of the Veterinary Services Grant Program is to relieve veterinarian shortage situations and support food animal veterinary services. There are two types of grants for VSGP:  

  1. The Education, Extension, and Training (EET) grants will be made available on a competitive basis to qualified entities to develop, implement and sustain veterinary services through education, training, recruitment, placement and retention of veterinarians, veterinary technicians and students of veterinary medicine and veterinary technology.
  2. The Rural Practice Enhancement (RPE) grants will also be made to establish or expand veterinary practices in rural areas. VSGP was appropriated $4 million in funding for FY 2023. The deadline for applications is March 29 at 5:00 p.m.

Additionally, NIFA published the FY 2023 veterinary shortage situation areas submitted by State Animal Health Officials. NIFA received 237 veterinary shortage area nominations which are now available for both VSGP and Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) applicants to review on the Veterinary Services Shortage Situations Map.

The designated shortage areas in Virginia for this year include the following:

  1. Albemarle, Fluvanna, Louisa, Nelson Counties
  2. Bedford, Campbell, Amherst Counties
  3. Tazewell and Russell Counties
  4. Botetourt and Franklin Counties
  5. Public Practice – at VDACS labs located in Wytheville, Lynchburg, Harrisonburg or Warrenton

NIFA will host two live FAQ events where interested applicants will have the opportunity to ask questions regarding VSGP applications directly to the VSGP team. Registration is required and can be accessed by clicking on the following buttons:

2023 General Assembly Update: Week 4

This week, we’re thanking everyone who responded to the action alert asking senators to support SB1129 related to mandatory farm practices. Your voices were heard, and the bill successfully passed out of the Senate Ag Committee. We’re also providing updates on bills covering broadband and industrial hemp. Watch until the end to find out why Sunday, February 5 is a key date for the Virginia General Assembly.

USDA Launches Cattle Contracts Library

This week, the USDA launched a pilot Cattle Contracts Library which seeks to give cattle producers more pricing transparency. Following input from stakeholders, including Farm Bureau, USDA has finalized the Cattle Contract Library pilot program which will give producers a mechanism to find key terms, conditions and volumes by which cattle are contracted.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022 established the pilot Cattle Contract Library within the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS.) Under this pilot, AMS will collect, maintain and report aggregated information on contracts between cattle producers and packers for purchases of fed cattle.

The library will include different types of contracts and contract terms. This includes premium schedules, discount schedules, delivery and transportation, terms and payments, financing, risk sharing and other financial arrangements. Additionally, AMS will also report on the number of head of cattle purchased under the terms of a contract.

Upcoming Stakeholder Webinars

AMS will be conducting a series of stakeholder webinars to inform producers how to use this new tool. The first webinar is scheduled for Friday, February 8 at 11 a.m. The live dashboard will begin on February 6.

More Information

USDA Press Release

Cattle Contract Library Website

Three Major Thoroughbred Stakes Races to Relocate to Virginia in 2023

Arlington Million, Beverly D. Stakes and Secretariat Stakes to Run at Colonial Downs

After approval from the American Graded Stakes Committee, three internationally-renowned Thoroughbred stakes races will be moved to Virginia. Those turf races that will soon run at Colonial Downs in New Kent are the Grade 1 Arlington Million and Beverly D. Stakes and the Grade 2 Secretariat Stakes.

The relocation of these significant races follows approval from the Virginia Racing Commission for 27 live race dates at Colonial Downs during the 2023 meet to be held July 13-September 9. Colonial Downs also announced last week that they will modify their typical live race days to Thursday, Friday and Saturday as opposed to the traditional Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday schedule, making horse racing more accessible for Virginians and visitors from around the country. Next year’s meet will be the first under the operation of new owners, Churchill Downs Incorporated.

“It is an incredible honor to continue the legacy of these exceptional races by hosting them in our Commonwealth,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “I am deeply committed to growing our equine industry and as we work to revive the rich traditions of this sport in Virginia, these stakes races will accelerate our progress and ignite excitement for the fans.”

“Churchill Downs Incorporated remains steadfast in our goal to increase the relevance of the racing product at Colonial Downs and in Virginia,” said Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs Incorporated. “We appreciate the American Graded Stakes Committee for their approval of this move, which is an important step toward that goal in terms of wagering growth and entertainment value. We are also committed to increasing the flow of purse revenue from historical horse racing to allow for expansion of race dates in the future.”

“We are grateful to Churchill Downs for the emphasis they have put on bringing world-class races to Virginia which give jockeys, breeders and trainers more opportunities to showcase the best of Virginia’s equine industry,” said Debbie Easter, President of the Virginia Equine Alliance. “Governor Youngkin’s involvement and efforts to secure these three races in particular should be commended as we collectively work to ensure a bright future for horse racing in the Commonwealth.”

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of Secretariat’s historic Triple Crown-winning season. The legendary horse will now be commemorated in the year of this milestone anniversary by debuting the stakes named in his honor on the Secretariat Turf Course at Colonial Downs in the state where he was born, bred and trained to be a champion.