USDA announces US$118M in grants to support specialty crops
U.S. Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced US$118 million in grants to strengthen markets for various specialty crops in the categories of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and nursery crops.
The grants were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill as part of an effort to enhance specialty crops' competitiveness and provide resources to strengthen the country's agriculture.
Sales of specialty crops reach nearly US$65 billion annually, making them a critical part of the U.S. economy, according to a release by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, administered by the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), will provide US$66 million to state agricultural departments for projects to help support growers through research along side programs aimed at increasing demand.
In addition, USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is awarding US$51.8 million in grants through its Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI).
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.
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.
"These Specialty Crop Block Grants support hundreds of projects that address issues ranging from food safety to research needs to increased access to fruits and vegetables, all benefiting specialty crop producers and consumers across the country," AMS administrator Anne Alonzo said in the release.
"With additional funding from the 2014 Farm Bill, we are able to do even more to help specialty crop growers increase profitability and sustainability."