Nearly $1 Million in Grants to Help Pa. Specialty Crop Industry Grow

11/9/2013 7:00 AM

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Nineteen Pennsylvania projects were awarded more than $956,000 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 USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, authorized under the federal Farm Bill.

“Specialty crops are an important part of Pennsylvania’s diverse agriculture industry, contributing more than $1 billion in sales each year,” said state Agriculture Secretary George Greig. “These grants will help foster innovation, strengthen our farms and improve food access and quality for all Pennsylvanians.”

The 19 funded projects address a range of agriculture 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 USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.

Grant recipients include:

American Mushroom Institute — $50,000 to develop training for grower best practices and food safety.

Blair County Conservation District — $28,362 to develop the Southern Alleghenies Local Food Network, improving direct market sales and sustainability of small farms through grower education and program promotion.

National Peach Council — $30,000 to partner with the Pennsylvania Peach and Nectarine Research Program to promote Pennsylvania peaches.

Pennsylvania Wine Association — $40,000 to develop a mobile app to market Pennsylvania wine and wineries.

Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture — $50,000 to expand access to regional specialty crops with the Chester County Food Bank and provide food safety training to growers and food bank staff.

Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Program —$50,000 to promote Pennsylvania apples.

Pennsylvania Cooperative Potato Growers — $50,000 to improve frozen and prepared potato foods by identifying the best potato varieties for par-frying.

Pennsylvania Farm Link — $20,000 to implement a “Certified Entering Farmer” program to teach beginning specialty crop farmers about marketing, production, business, capital sources and land.

In addition, Penn State received two grants — $45,000 to help growers comply with Food Safety Modernization Act requirements through training and planning, and “$81,818 to help growers identify and prevent the introduction and spread of Phytophthora, or water mold, pathogens that threaten specialty crop markets.

More than $360,000 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 through training in good agricultural practices and good handling practices.

They will also foster fresh, locally grown markets in underserved areas by providing food assistance for food insecure individuals and families; promote specialty crops through the PA Preferred program; and encourage sound business practices by producers through PAgrows.

They also will train growers in integrated pest management techniques and help nurseries develop and maintain proactive plant pest inspection systems.

Since 2007, Pennsylvania has received $5.7 million in funding through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, supporting 103 projects to further the state’s specialty crops industry.

This year’s awards were among 54 block grants totaling $52 million the USDA awarded for 694 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands.

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