What is in this article?:
- USDA bolsters specialty crop investment
- Specialty Crop Research Initiative
- USDA announced $101 million in grants to support America's specialty crops producers, who provide the fruits, vegetables, nuts and other nutritious foods for millions of healthy American meals each day.
USDA announced $101 million in grants to support America's specialty crops producers, who provide the fruits, vegetables, nuts and other nutritious foods for millions of healthy American meals each day. Approximately $55 million of the total will be invested in 56 specialty crop block grants to states that fund 748 initiatives across the country to strengthen markets and expand economic opportunities for local and regional producers. An additional $46 million will go to support new and continuing research and Extension activities to address challenges and opportunities for growers and businesses that rely on a sustainable, profitable specialty crops industry. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement before touring the Catholic Multicultural Center in Madison, Wis., which prepares food, including fresh fruit and vegetables, for delivery to local public schools.
Under Vilsack's leadership, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has supported efforts to strengthen local and regional food systems for farmers of all types and sizes, helping them take advantage of new opportunities and succeed in today's marketplace. Thanks to this support for the diversity of American agriculture, the sector is experiencing one of its best periods in history. Today, both agricultural exports and net farm income are at record levels, while farm debt has been cut in half since the 1980s. Overall, American agriculture supports 1 in 12 jobs in the United States.
"By investing in projects that stimulate growth and development for specialty crop growers of all sizes, we're helping American farmers establish a marketplace for new businesses opportunities in each region of the country," said Vilsack. "These investments will support local and regional markets, and improve access to healthy food for millions of children and supply thousands of farmers markets, restaurants and other businesses with fresh, high-quality fruits and vegetables. The grants also help growers solve technology needs or make better informed decisions on profitability and sustainability, leading to stronger rural American communities and businesses."
The goal of USDA's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is to promote and increase opportunities for specialty crop producers. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands received grants this year, totaling $55 million. Visit www.ams.usda.gov/scbgp to review the 2012 project summaries and view a list of awards by location.
The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program for fiscal year 2012 supports initiatives that:
- Increase nutritional knowledge and specialty crop consumption
- Improve efficiency within the distribution system and reduce costs
- Promote the development of good agricultural, handling and manufacturing practices while encouraging audit fund cost-sharing for small farmers, packers and processors
- Support research through standard and green initiatives
- Enhance food safety
- Develop new/improved seed varieties and specialty crops
- Control pests and diseases
- Create organic and sustainable production practices
- Establish local and regional fresh food systems
- Expand food access in underserved/food desert communities
Since 2006, the program administered by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has awarded $240 million. The program is part of USDA's integrated approach to programs and policies that stimulate food- and agriculturally-based community economic development.