The U.S. Department of Agriculture will conduct a free webinar on Dec. 16, 2 p.m. ET, to discuss a grant opportunity offered by the USDA that would enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops.

USDA invites everyone who is currently engaged in, or interested in engaging in, the production, handling, sale, or research of specialty crops to participate. The webinar will address the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which the USDA administers specifically to support the marketing potential of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).

“Our goal is to relay information about the grant program to as much of the industry as possible so that eligible applicants know how the program can benefit them,” said Robert Keeney, Deputy Administrator of the Fruit and Vegetable Programs. “The webinar will offer helpful guidance about the general scope of the program and how to apply.”

In fiscal year 2010, USDA administered $55 million under the grant program, which supported projects focused on marketing and promotion, education, production, research, food safety, and pest and plant health. The department anticipates the same amount to be available for fiscal year 2011.

Trista Etzig, manager of the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, will explain the purpose of the grant, how to apply for grant funds through the applicants’ respective states, and the types of projects that are eligible for funding.

Grant Opportunity: Enhancing the Competitiveness of Specialty Crops is hosted by Red Book Credit Services as part of the free Red Book University educational offering. Registration is free and is required to participate. To request a registration form, contact Olga Kehmeier, Red Book Credit Services, at okehmeier@rbcs.com, or by phone at (800) 252-1925

ext. 744 or (913) 438-0744.

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service is pleased to make available audio recordings of this and previously offered webinars at www.ams.usda.gov/FruitandVegetable as part of an ongoing series to support industry members.

For more information about the webinars, contact Christopher Purdy, Business Development Specialist, at (202) 720-3209, christopher.purdy@ams.usda.gov.

More information is also available at www.ams.usda.gov/FruitandVegetable.