Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer announced today that USDA is making available $28.4 million for research and extension projects in fiscal year 2008 to address the critical needs of the specialty crop industry by developing and disseminating science-based tools to address needs of specific crops.
"This is a substantial investment in scientific research and technology for production of specialty crops that will advance their large contribution to America's agriculture both domestically and in world markets," said Schafer.
The U.S. specialty crop industry is comprised of producers and handlers of fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery crops, including floriculture. It is a major contributor to the U.S. agricultural economy, accounting for 10 million harvested cropland acres in 2004. The total value of U.S. specialty crops is over $50 billion in sales, which puts the combined value of these crops in league with the five major program crops.
Funding for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative was a major initiative in USDA's farm bill proposal and is authorized through the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008. The 2008 farm bill provides an additional $50 million each year for fiscal years 2009 through 2012 for a total of $230 million over the five years of the farm bill. Those interested in applying for funding can access the request for applications online at www.csrees.usda.gov/funding/rfas/specialty_crop.html.
The Specialty Crop Research Initiative has five focus areas: 1) plant breeding, genetics and genomics research to improve crop characteristics; 2) efforts to identify and address threats from pests and diseases; 3) innovations and technology, including improved mechanization and technologies that delay or inhibit ripening; 4) efforts to improve production efficiency, productivity and profitability; and 5) methods to prevent, detect, monitor, control and respond to potential food safety hazards in the production and processing of specialty crops.
Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, CSREES focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. For more information, visit www.csrees.usda.gov.