FAQ: What is being done to encourage more diversification of crops in Iowa? Specialty crops such as fruits, vegetables and others allow farmers to diversify and give Iowa consumers access to locally grown products.
Answer: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced nearly $118 million in grants to strengthen markets for specialty crops, such as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture and nursery crops. The grants were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill as part of an effort to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops and provide resources to strengthen American agriculture.
"Specialty crop grants provide a major boost to the rural economies," says Secretary Vilsack. "Today's announcement is another example of how USDA is implementing the farm bill to deliver critical tools producers need to successfully grow, process and market high-quality products."
Specialty crops are important part of U.S. economy
Sales of specialty crops total nearly $65 billion per year, making them a critical part of the U.S. economy. The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program administered by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service will provide $66 million to state departments of agriculture for projects that help support specialty crop growers, including locally grown fruits and vegetables, through research and programs to increase demand.
In addition, USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture is awarding $51.8 million in grants through its Specialty Crop Research Initiative. SCRI supports the specialty crop sector by developing and disseminating science-based tools to address the needs of specific crops.
Farm bill has special funding for specialty crops
All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. territories were awarded Specialty Crop Block Grants that will fund a total of 838 projects. "These Specialty Crop Block Grants support hundreds of projects that address issues ranging from food safety to research needs to increased access to fruits and vegetables, all benefiting specialty crop producers and consumers across the country," says USDA/AMS administrator Anne Alonzo. "With additional funding from the 2014 Farm Bill, we are able to do even more to help specialty crop growers increase profitability and sustainability."
Through SCRI, USDA is awarding $51.8 million to fund research and Extension projects for specialty crop production. The grants fund a wide variety of efforts, including research to improve crop characteristics, identifying and addressing threats from pests and diseases, improving production and profitability, developing new production innovations and technologies, and developing methods to respond to food safety hazards.
For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.