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Retired horticulture professor Al Putnam looks at some of the wine grapes he grows on Promise Lane near Corvallis. Putnam believes the Bitterroot Valley has potential for growing grapes needed to make quality wines.

The Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA) is now accepting applications for an estimated $1.5 million in federal funding available through the Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) program. This competitive grant program is designed to expand markets for Montana specialty crops.

Montana’s SCBG program is available for projects enhancing the competitiveness of Montana specialty crops. Specialty crops include fruits and vegetables, peas, and lentils, as well as horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.

“These grants are a great way for our producers to explore different opportunities to enhance and diversify their operations,” said MDA Director Ben Thomas. “There have been some really innovative projects in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing this next round of applications.”

Eligible projects include education, marketing, improving distribution systems, development of good agricultural practices, pest and disease control, variety development, and improving production practices. Technical assistance calls will be held on Jan. 15 and Feb. 4, 2019. For more information, visit http://agr.mt.gov/SpecialtyCropBlockGrants.

State and/or local organizations, government entities, producer associations, academia, community based organizations, nonprofit organizations and other specialty crop stakeholders are eligible to apply either as single entities or in combined efforts.

Grant proposals are due to the Montana Department of Agriculture by midnight on Feb. 6, 2019. For more information, eligibility guidelines, technical assistance and resources, visit scbg.mt.gov or contact Jim Auer, Specialty Crop Block Grant Program Manager, at 406-444-5424.

The Montana Department of Agriculture’s mission is to protect producers and consumers, and to enhance and develop agriculture and allied industries. For more information on the Montana Department of Agriculture, visit www.agr.mt.gov.

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