MDA distributes federal block grants to promote specialty crops
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) received $704,000 in Specialty Crop Block Grants from the United States Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA-AMS), to oversee research and development projects that increase the competitiveness of fruits, vegetables, nursery crops and other specialty crops.
As provided in the 2008 Farm Bill, the highly successful Specialty Crop Block Grant Program will allow the MDA to support nine important projects that were selected from among 22 proposals reviewed by a panel of experts with specialty crops experience. The projects include:
■ University of Minnesota, to increase the adoption of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) through workshops and demonstration audits in an effort to improve food safety;
■ Minnesota Grown Promotional Group Inc., to increase the reach and efficiency of the Minnesota Grown Directory, to develop and distribute point of sale materials to identify and promote Asian vegetables primarily grown and marketed by Hmong farmers, and to educate children about local produce;
■ Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, to assist in creating new opportunities for Minnesota growers of fresh fruits and vegetables by addressing key barriers in the child-care marketplace;
■ Renewing the Countryside, to provide Minnesota specialty crop growers with increased opportunities to develop business relationships with institutional buyers;
■ Minnesota Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, to provide educational opportunities to Minnesota specialty crop producers through interactive workshops;
■ Minnesota Farmers Market Association, to assist specialty crop producers in obtaining the training and equipment to safely demonstrate food selection and preparation;
■ Minnesota Department of Agriculture and U of M, to evaluate the role of soybean aphid as a vector of Potato Virus Y (PVY) in seed potato fields and to develop pest management recommendations for growers;
■ University of Minnesota, to provide information to strawberry growers on new production methods using low tunnels;
■ University of Minnesota, to address critical need for networking among high tunnel growers.
These nine projects would not be possible without a forward-looking farm bill in 2008. Minnesota specialty crop industries have benefitted from the allocation of more than $2.8 million for research and development under this program in the last four years. The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is on hold for the next federal fiscal year, given the absence of farm bill passage to date.
A list of the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Awards nationwide is available on the USDA website at www.ams.usda.gov/scbgp.