USDA announces changes to specialty crops export program

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a change to the regulations for the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program that widens the range of projects that can be funded under the program.

The TASC program provides funding to U.S. organizations for projects that address trade barriers that prohibit or threaten the export of U.S. specialty crops. The 2014 Farm Bill amended the existing TASC statute to clarify that the program funds projects that address “sanitary and phytosanitary and technical barriers to trade” rather than “sanitary and phytosanitary and related barriers.” A rule published in today’s Federal Register makes the corresponding change to the TASC regulations.

The change allows TASC funding for projects that address technical barriers to trade that are not related to any sanitary or phytosanitary barrier. Until the passage of the farm bill, certain export barriers such as quality issues, packaging issues and environmental sustainability labeling requirements could not be addressed under the TASC program because, although legitimate export barriers, they did not meet the requirement of being related to a sanitary or phytosanitary barrier.

The specialty crops industry will now be able to use the TASC program to fund a broader range of projects that all have the same underlying goal of increasing U.S. specialty crop exports.

USDA continues to accept fiscal year 2014 applications for the TASC program. New proposals will be accepted until 2014 funds are exhausted. USDA is also accepting TASC proposals for fiscal year 2015 funding. All proposals received by May 19, 2014 will be reviewed concurrently by FAS. Proposals received after that date will be reviewed if 2015 funds remain.

In addition to the TASC program, USDA is also accepting applications for other fiscal year 2015 market development programs. Eligible organizations can apply for funding through USDA’s Market Access Program, Foreign Market Development Program, Quality Samples Program and Emerging Markets Program.

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