More than $1 million in grants awarded to help Pennsylvania specialty crops

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HARRISBURG — Twenty Pennsylvania projects were awarded nearly $1,045,000 in federal grants to increase the visibility and market share of the state’s produce, nursery, horticultural and nut products.

The federal grants are part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, authorized under the federal Farm Bill.

“Specialty crops are an important part of Pennsylvania’s diverse agricultural industry and vital to its future,” said Agriculture Secretary George Greig.

“This million-dollar investment in a $1 billion industry funds groundbreaking research and other projects that strengthen our farms and improve food access and quality. The advancements we make here can be applied across the world.”

The 20 funded projects address a range of agriculture industry priorities, including food safety, marketing, nutrition and sustainability.

Grant recipients are selected by a state-appointed specialty crop advisory board and approved by the state agriculture secretary.

Applications are then collectively submitted for approval to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service.

Grant recipients

Grant recipients include:

• American Mushroom Institute: $60,000 for expanding training for grower best practices and food safety;

• The Food Trust: $40,000 to partner with local farmers and a school district to use cosmetically-imperfect foods in farm-to-school programs;

• National Peach Council: $63,000 to partner with the Pennsylvania Peach and Nectarine Research Program to promote Pennsylvania peaches for the campaign’s second year;

• Pennsylvania Wine Association: $40,000 to develop 12 Wine Trail Weekend itineraries that enhance the Pennsylvania agritourism experience;

• Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Program: $30,000 for marketing research to help promote processed apple products;

• Pennsylvania Cooperative Potato Growers: $100,305 to identify the best potato varieties for partial-frying;

• Pennsylvania Farm Link: $23,924 for farm succession workshops, information and assistance for western Pennsylvania specialty crop growers.

PSU grants

In addition, the Pennsylvania State University received six grants of:

• $32,427 for research to improve tomato yield and quality through drip-irrigation fertilization;

• $77,645 for sustainable production, pest management and marketing education programming for minority and beginning specialty crop producers;

• $49,000 to better understand the effect of pesticide applications on fruit crop pollinators to improve apple and other fruit integrated pest management programs;

• $59,786 to evaluate treating tomato and pepper seeds to protect plants against pests to decrease pesticide use;

• $50,000 to increase onion yields by educating onion growers about pathogen management;

• $73,000 to find ways to more quickly and effectively test and identify pests and pathogens that threaten Pennsylvania’s specialty crops.

More than $240,000 was awarded to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s bureaus of food distribution, food safety, market development and plant industry.

The grants will allow these bureaus to increase food safety practices among specialty crop producers, markets for fresh and locally-grown foods in underserved areas through food assistance for food insecure individuals and families, and sound business practices for producers through PAgrows.

They also will train York County’s Amish and Mennonite vegetable growers in integrated pest management techniques.

Since 2007, Pennsylvania has received $6.5 million in funding through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, supporting 138 projects which further the state’s specialty crops industry.

Pennsylvania ranks in the top 16 states for specialty crops investment.

This year the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded grants totaling $118 million for 839 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. Territories.

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