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USDA invests $102.7m for specialty cropsUSDA invests $102.7m for specialty crops

Programs target resources to state, local and regional level so people who understand issues can find broader solutions.

September 24, 2018

3 Min Read
USDA invests $102.7m for specialty crops
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U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary Greg Ibach announced that USDA is investing $102.7 million to increase opportunities for farmers, ranchers and other growers across the country through five grant programs. The funding supports a variety of locally led projects intended to expand markets for local food promotion and specialty crops.

“Every state has agricultural priorities that contribute to the well-being of farm families, consumers and the economic health of rural America,” Ibach said. “These programs target resources to the state, local and regional level, where the people who understand the issues best can find solutions that help everyone.”

The resources announced are administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) receives $72.15 for state departments of agriculture in 50 states, Washington, D.C., and five U.S. territories to support farmers growing specialty crops, including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and nursery crops. States use the SCBGP to fund research, agricultural extension activities and programs to increase demand for agricultural goods of value to farmers in the state or territory.

In Tennessee, the fiscal 2014 SCBGP enabled 14 projects selected by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to prepare a manual for Christmas tree farmers, look at ways to help field-grown nurseries respond to fire ants, improve northeast Tennessee buyer/producer networks and examine ways to increase sales and income for Tennessee’s specialty crop producers.

The Farmers Market Promotion Program receives $13.35 million and directed to 49 projects supporting direct producer-to-consumer marketing projects such as farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs, roadside stands and agri-tourism. A 2015 grant enabled the farmers market in Burkesville, Ky., in Cumberland County, with a total county population of 7,000, to expand the number of vendors at its market from eight registered vendors in 2015 to a roster of 38 vendors in 2017.

The Local Food Promotion Program directs $13.45 million to 44 projects to support the development and expansion of local and regional food businesses to increase domestic consumption of and access to locally and regionally produced agricultural products and to develop new market opportunities for farm and ranch operations serving local markets. A 2016 grant helped the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma conduct a feasibility study to research ways to strengthen and expand the food system for tribal members, families and communities.

The Acer Access & Development Program awarded $2.67 million to six projects and supports the efforts of states, tribal governments and research institutions to increase market opportunities for the domestic maple syrup industry. The first Acer grants, totaling $900,000, were awarded in fiscal 2017.

The maple industry is using several new practices and equipment improvements to increase sap yield. The University of Vermont & State Agricultural College is researching ways to identify new maple tapping practices to increase and maintain yields and production given changing seasonal conditions.

The Federal State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP) awarded $1.1 million for nine projects through to assist in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the efficiency and performance of the marketing system.

Spotted winged drosophila (SWD) is an invasive fruit fly that lays eggs in ripening fruit just prior to harvest. As a result, growers often increase insecticide applications near harvest or accept increased loss of product in response to the damage caused by this pest. A 2014 FSMIP grant to Iowa State University of Science and Technology led to the development and publication in 2016 of a free guide for growers, "Managing Spotted Winged Drosophila in Commercial Fruit Production."

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