Specialty crop grants | Living the Country Life

Specialty crop grants

The USDA has boosted funding in this program

Specialty crops such as fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts play a critical role in the U.S economy. According to the USDA, specialty crop sales total nearly $65 billion per year. They’re also among our fastest growing agricultural exports to other countries. The 2014 Farm Bill is reflecting that trend by providing nearly $118 million to strengthen the USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says these dollars are reaching all 50-states and will be used for a variety of purposes.

"They’ll be assisting states and producers in marketing specialty crops, there will be resources that are made available to improve food safety, to increase productivity, to deal with research opportunities in terms of plant health involving pests and diseases," says Vilsack. "So it’s a broad array of ways in which we’re helping this industry as well as promoting local and regional food systems."

Vilsack says this will also have a positive impact on rural communities.

"Anytime that you’re investing in increased productivity or you’re investing in additional market expansion and growth, it’s going to help producers who are located in rural communities," says Vilsack. "They’ll be able to sell more, they’ll be able to be encouraged to grow more, and I think it does help support the notion of small and medium-sized operators as well."

The specialty crop business caters not only to large orchards and groves, but also to producers with only a handful of acres who sell directly at a farmer’s market, a roadside stand, or a local school.

Vilsack says there’s no question that there’s a growing interest among producers, because there’s a growing market demand both domestically and internationally. The grants will help create more opportunities and support diversity.

Learn more about the Specialty Crop Block Grant program and how to apply

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