Senate Passes Ward’s Bill Creating Specialty Crop Grant Program

HARRISBURG – The Senate approved a bill this week that would create a new grant program to support the development of specialty crops in Pennsylvania, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Judy Ward (R-30).

Senate Bill 661 would create the Commonwealth Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to support products that are not already covered under a similar federal program. The grants would be targeted to high-priority specialty crops, such as such as hemp, hops and hardwoods.

The new program would be open to state and local organizations, producer associations, academia, community-based organizations, and other specialty crops stakeholders. Eligible projects would be required to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops by improving distribution, efficiency, research and other initiatives to boost consumption of goods targeted by the program.

“There is a growing demand for a number of specialty crops, and this strong market creates new opportunities – and new challenges – for farmers,” Ward said. “The federal program on specialty crops was a great first step, but now we need to take the next step and expand this approach to include even more products.”

The existing Federal Specialty Crop Block Grant Program already helps to enhance the markets for other specialty crops, including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops.

Senate Bill 661 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

CONTACT:  Cheryl Schriner (717) 787-5490

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