CRANSTON, RI - In an effort to help Rhode Island farmers, food producers, and the state’s agricultural sector grow and develop a healthy, sustainable future, U.S. Senator Jack Reed today announced $270,000 in Specialty Crop Block Grants.  Administered at the federal level by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), these federal funds will be awarded to several projects designed to grow Rhode Island's 'specialty crop' sector, which include fruits, vegetables, and horticulture and nursery crops.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and a half dozen non-profits will harness the federal USDA funds to expand the availability of fresh, locally-grown produce, strengthen the state's specialty crop industry, and promote Rhode Island grown produce to a broader audience.

“This federal funding will be a big help to Rhode Island farmers and small-scale specialty food producers.  As Congress moves forward with a new Farm Bill, it is imperative that it includes strong support for family farmers and local food networks,” said Senator Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, who helped FUND THE non-competitive Specialty Crop Block Grant PROGRAM in the FY 2023 appropriations law.  “This federal funding will help DEM promote locally-grown and buy-local initiatives.  It will continue to enhance the competitiveness and marketing of Rhode Island grown produce. It will also help develop distribution channels for specialty crops, and support sustainable farming methods, training, and best practices.”

In order to qualify for the competitive USDA specialty crop grants, projects had to demonstrate a benefit to the industry as a whole, rather than one product, individual, or organization.

According to USDA, one of RIDEM’s projects that will benefit from the federal funds is the establishment of RI Grown Week – a weeklong celebration highlighting specialty crops grown in the Ocean State.  This is an offshoot of the RI Grown program, which was first launched in 2009, with the statewide “Get Fresh. Buy Local.” marketing campaign.

Additional projects funded by these federal dollars will include programs focused on areas such as: researching heat- tolerant vegetable trails; providing technical assistance for small and beginning Rhode Island specialty crop producers; and increasing education of specialty crops through Farmers Markets.

Senator Reed says he will support robust authorization and appropriations for the Specialty Crop Block Grant program in the upcoming Farm Bill and the FY 2024 Agriculture Appropriations bill.