Oct 3, 2014USDA invests millions in specialty crop grants
USDA has announced that nearly $118 million in grants are now available to strengthen markets for specialty crops such as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture and nursery crops.
The grants were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill as part of an effort to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops and provide resources to strengthen American agriculture, according to USDA.
Sales of specialty crops total nearly $65 billion per year, making them a critical part of the U.S. economy. The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, will provide $66 million to state departments of agriculture for projects that help support specialty crop growers, including locally grown fruits and vegetables, through research and programs to increase demand. In addition, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture is awarding $51.8 million in grants through its Specialty Crop Research Initiative. SCRI supports the specialty crop sector by developing and disseminating science-based tools to address the needs of specific crops.
All 50 states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories were awarded Specialty Crop Block Grants that will fund a total of 838 projects. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) will receive $4.5 million to fund 34 projects. One project allows FDACS to partner with Miami-Dade County to increase the market viability of local specialty crops. The project also educates the public about consumption of specialty crops to improve nutrition and publicizes the availability of specialty crops at local markets, according to USDA.
Through SCRI, USDA is awarding $51.8 million to fund research and Extension projects for specialty crop production. The grants fund a wide variety of efforts, including research to improve crop characteristics, identifying and addressing threats from pests and diseases, improving production and profitability, developing new production innovations and technologies and developing methods to respond to food safety hazards.