U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has announced more than 100-million dollars in grants to support the nation’s specialty crops producers. Fifty-five million dollars 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. The remaining 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.
According to Vilsack – this investment in projects that stimulate growth and development for specialty crops growers of all sizes helps American farmers establish a marketplace for new business opportunities in each region of the country. Among other things – he says 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.
USDA says 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 all received grants this year. The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program for fiscal year 2012 is supporting initiatives that increase nutritional knowledge and specialty crop consumption; improve efficiency within the distribution system and reduce costs; enhance food safety; develop new/improved seed varieties and specialty crops; control pests and diseases; create organic and sustainable production practices; expand food access in underserved/food desert communities; and more.
The new and continuing grants through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative fund projects that address five focus areas. These include improving crop characteristics through plant breeding, genetics and genomics; addressing threats from pests and diseases; improving production efficiency, productivity and profitability; developing new innovations and technologies; and developing methods to improve food safety.
Source: NAFB News Service