Annapolis, MD – December 9, 2019 – The Maryland Department of Agriculture announces eight projects that will be awarded funds through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) to enhance the competitiveness of Maryland specialty crops.

“Maryland’s specialty crops are a critical part of our state’s agriculture industry as more farmers begin to diversify their operations and enter new niche markets,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “The funds granted by the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program are vital to the success of the specialty crop sector in Maryland and I am thrilled to announce this year’s eight grant recipients.”
The projects were selected after a competitive review process with the Maryland Department of Agriculture and an external review committee comprised of representatives from the specialty crop industry, lending institutions, economic development, and producers. A total of $452,382 in grant funds will be distributed to the following eight projects:

Grow & Fortify will receive $25,861.25 to increase the visibility and profitability of Maryland-grown apples and honey by developing a marketing and promotion plan that supports the apple and honey specialty crops, and the larger industries that are dependent on these ingredients.

Maryland Public Television’s “Maryland Farm & Harvest” will receive $35,000 to support specialty crop coverage in season 7 of the agriculture series. These segments will explain the production of specialty crops, introduce Marylanders to farmers who grow specialty crops, and provide recipes for specialty crops.

• The Maryland Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland will receive $122,861.63 to partner together to provide coordinated food safety programs to assist specialty crop producers in complying with the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule and maintaining and gaining market access.

Maryland’s Best will receive $133,817.28 to increase sales and consumer demand for Maryland-grown specialty crops through targeted advertising, strategic consumer and wholesale promotions, networking events, and direct partnerships with Maryland specialty crop producer associations. Additionally, Maryland’s Best, the agricultural marketing program at the Maryland Department of Agriculture, will use some of these grant funds to pilot a program with Baltimore City Public Schools to support transportation for students in the city to travel to Great Kids Farm in Baltimore County, where they will learn about specialty crops.

NetGlo Corporation will receive $27,000 in funding to enhance the ability of Maryland specialty crop producers and processors to meet regulatory and buyer food safety requirements by demonstrating the use of an automated lot tracking system (including Blockchain) and disseminating feedback to Maryland stakeholders.

• The Agriculture Law Education Initiative at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) will receive $32,860.79 to develop a “Legal Guide to Direct Farm Marketing for Maryland Produce Growers.” The guide will equip farmers with the knowledge they need to effectively manage the legal risks involved with direct marketing and empower them to strengthen and expand their direct marketing efforts.

• The University of Maryland’s Bee Lab will be awarded $48,508.65 to evaluate the effectiveness of miticides for managing the honey bee pest Varroa destructor (Varroa mites) in Maryland.

• The University of Maryland Entomology Department will receive $26,472.40 to study the management of Drosophila suzukii (D. suzukii) and fungi in raspberries using peroxyacetic acid.

Funding is provided to state departments of agriculture from the Farm Bill through the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. The Maryland Department of Agriculture administers funding received from the USDA SCBGP annually. The amount of funding received by the Maryland Department of Agriculture is based on specialty crop acreage and production value on an annual basis.

Maryland specialty crops include: fruits and vegetables, culinary herbs and spices, honey, hops, grapes, maple syrup, Christmas trees, and nursery crops.
For more information about the USDA SCBGP, visit the department’s website or contact Karen Fedor at (410) 841-5773 or