The U. S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced over $62.5 million in grants to support farmers growing fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery crops, also known as specialty crops. The projects include research, agricultural extension activities, and programs to increase demand and address the needs of America’s specialty crop industry. AMS Administrator Elanor Starmer made the announcement while attending USDA’s Fall Forum with local stakeholders held in Concord today to discuss key issues facing the future of agriculture.
The grants are part of USDA’s continued effort to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops and provide resources to strengthen American agriculture. The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP), administrated by AMS, awarded grant funds for 693 projects in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. Territories. Under the Obama Administration, AMS has awarded SCBGP grants totaling $455.5 million for 6,138 projects, including those announced today.
“The Obama Administration has placed a strong emphasis on healthy eating, and specialty crops such as fruits and vegetables play an important role in this effort,” said AMS Administrator Elanor Starmer. “The grants announced today will help ensure that our specialty crop sector remains competitive, has the resources it needs to solve challenges, and can meet Americans’ growing demand for these products. This is important for our farmers and rural communities as well as for all American consumers.”
The grants are issued to state departments of agriculture for projects that help support specialty crop growers, including locally grown fruits and vegetables. For example, in New Hampshire, the Small and Beginner Farmers of New Hampshire is partnering with Merrimack County Conservation District to increase access to freeze drying and flash freezing equipment for specialty crop growers, helping farmers offer products beyond the season for locally grown fresh produce. The project will also include workshops to educate growers on safe handling of food, equipment and technology.
The SCBGP supports a range of projects, including many like the Small and Beginner Farmers of New Hampshire project, which help build the capacity of communities to produce and market specialty crops locally and regionally. According to industry estimates, the value of local food sales grew from $5 billion in 2008 to $12 billion in 2014 and is expected to grow to $20 billion by 2019. This effort supports USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative (KYF2), which coordinates the Department’s work to develop strong local and regional food systems – including SCBGP projects. Over the course of the Obama Administration, USDA has invested close to $1 billion in 40,000 local food-related projects. Information on local and regional supply chain resources is available on the KYF2 website, and the KYF2 Compass can help users locate USDA investments in their community. More information on how USDA investments are connecting producers with consumers, expanding rural economic opportunities, and increasing access to healthy food is available in Chapter IV of USDA Results on Medium.
For additional grant information on the awards, visit the AMS website.