The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) is accepting applications for the 2013 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP).

Applications must be received no later than close of business (4:30 p.m.) May 6, 2013.

The LDAF will administer the grant programfunded through the USDA -- Agriculture Marketing Service (USDA-AMS). Currently, exact funding levels for the 2013 SCBGP are not known due to sequestration; however, the LDAF anticipates about $300,000 will be available to fund Louisiana projects.

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

Some of the groups eligible for the grants include non-profit organizations and corporations, commodity associations, state and local government entities, colleges, and universities. Applicants must reside in or their business or educational affiliation must be in Louisiana. One requirement of applicants is that each applicant must obtain a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number and include that number on their 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 such as: distribution, production, research, market development, food safety, promotion and education.

LDAF will accept grant applications with a yearly budget value of up to $100,000 and a minimum of $5,000. Grants can be awarded for projects lasting up to three years. Once the deadline has past all applications submitted to LDAF will be carefully evaluated to determine if the projects are qualified based on the criteria listed in the guidelines.

All submitted project applications deemed qualified will be reviewed and scored by a panel consisting of industry stakeholders, and the panel will make funding recommendations to LDAF. All LDAF approved projects will be incorporated into one state grant request which will be submitted to USDA.

LDAF has prepared a Request for Applications (RFA) document detailing application instructions, scoring criteria, federal forms, project format examples and other helpful information from the USDA. The document may be found at www.LDAF.la.gov. Click on the 2013 Specialty Crop link on the center of the page.

A complete list of eligible specialty crops may be found at http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/scbgpdefinitions.

For more information, contact Michelle Estay, Director of Commodity Promotion and Research, at (985) 345-9483.