The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry is accepting applications for the 2017 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, Commissioner Mike Strain announced recently.

Applications must be received no later than 4:30 p.m. May 15.

The Agriculture and Forestry Department will administer the grant program, which is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture — Agricultural Marketing Service. The state anticipates at least $346,822.26 to be allocated to fund Louisiana projects.

The grants are to be used for projects that solely enhance the competitiveness of Louisiana-grown specialty crops like fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, Christmas trees, turf grass/sod, nursery and greenhouse crops.

Producer associations, state or local governments or organizations, qualified educational institutions, nonprofits and other specialty crop stakeholders are eligible sub-recipients. All applicants are required to obtain a Data Universal Numbering System number and include that number on the application.

Grant funds will not be awarded for projects that directly benefit a particular commercial product or provide a profit to a single organization, institution or individual. Projects should focus on issues to help improve specialty crop industries as a whole.

Grants can be awarded for projects lasting up to two years and 10 months. All LDAF approved projects will be incorporated into one state plan grant request, which will be submitted to the USDA.

The LDAF has prepared a document detailing application instructions, scoring criteria, federal forms, project format examples and other helpful information from the USDA. The document may be found at ldaf.state.la.us. Click on the Specialty Crop alert.

For information, email Wanda Ward at wanda_w@ldaf.state.la.us.