Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Elanor Starmer announced that USDA is awarding $2.6 million in competitive grants to help develop solutions to problems affecting the specialty crop industry across state boundaries. AMS is awarding the funds to four projects under the new Specialty Crop Multi-State Program, which was created by the 2014 Farm Bill.
"Building partnerships across state lines will strengthen the specialty crop sector and sustain the livelihoods of American farmers in rural communities," said Starmer. "With over 140,000 specialty crop farms across the country, the Specialty Crop Multi-State Program grants encourage the type of collaboration that is needed to implement strong food safety strategies, increase access to healthy foods, and improve profitability and sustainability on the farm."
Administered by AMS, the Specialty Crop Multi-State Program is designed to support food safety and research; address plant pests, diseases, and crop-specific issues; and increase marketing opportunities for specialty crops like fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.
USDA is funding the following projects under SCMP:
-Arkansas Agriculture Department is partnering with the University of Arkansas and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service for a multi-state project to evaluate field resistance to downy mildew in spinach, including breeding new spinach cultivars with downy mildew resistance;
-New York Department of Agriculture and Markets has joined Cornell University and Virginia Tech - Eastern Shore to complete a field study in produce packing houses and processing facilities to develop, implement, and evaluate produce-specific monitoring and control programs targeting Listeria and resulting in safer food;
-Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has partnered with Clemson University, Michigan State University, University of Georgia and the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension to evaluate short and long-term solutions for Armillaria Root Rot affecting forest and fruit tree crops;
-Washington State Department of Agriculture is working with LINC Foods (Wash.); Lake County Community Development Corp. Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center (Mont.); Farm Commons (Minn.); and Rural Roots (Idaho) to increase the competitiveness and sales of specialty crops in the eastern Washington, Northern Idaho and Western Montana region through Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) education and resources, resulting in safer food for consumers.
Specialty Crop Multi-State Program projects involve at least two partners located in different states. Partners include state agencies, tribal governments, universities, non-profits, and other specialty crop organizations.
A complete list of crops plants commonly considered as specialty crops and a definition of specialty crops is available at the AMS website.
Source: USDA Agricultural Marketing Service