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$600,000 Available to Strengthen New York's Specialty Crops
New York Ag Connection - 01/12/2018

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball Thurday announced up to $600,000 is available to help strengthen New York State's specialty crop industry. The NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, in partnership with the New York Farm Viability Institute (NYFVI), is seeking proposals for research and grower education projects that aim to enhance the competitiveness of New York's specialty crop producers and increase the long-term success of the State's agricultural industry. The funding is provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant program. Since the USDA began the program in 2006, New York State has awarded $11.1 million for 117 specialty crop projects across the State.

Ball said, "Specialty crops are some of our most valuable agricultural products, contributing more than $1 billion in sales each year. That success is driven by hard-working, innovative farmers and continued support for important research and outreach that tackle key issues in production, increase the health and resiliency of significant crops, and educate growers about new and improved practices on the farm. This grant program provides us an opportunity to build on those efforts and ensure that New York remains a national leader in specialty crop production for years to come."

New York State's specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, maple syrup, honey, horticulture and nursery products. The Specialty Crop Block Grant program will provide eligible not-for-profit organizations, educational institutions and local governments up to $100,000 for projects that address or enhance specific opportunities, needs, or challenges impacting specialty crop production in New York. Projects may focus on boosting efficiencies, reducing costs, managing pests, or fostering innovation to strengthen the viability and competitiveness of specialty crop producers throughout the state.

The following priority areas have been identified within the Request for Proposals:

- Research and/or education addressing a key conventional or organic production problem or need specific to New York State;

- Developing and increasing the use of Integrated Pest Management strategies and programs;

- Prioritizing and addressing native and exotic pests and disease threats through development of pest risk assessments;

- Supporting plant breeding for the development of specialty crops resistant to exotic and native pests;

- Applied research and development to extend the growing season of New York specialty crops through new technologies, improved management practices, or other innovative production strategies; and

- Developing new seed varieties and specialty crops with optimal performance under New York State conditions.

Grant funds will only be awarded to applicants whose projects have statewide significance to the specialty crop industry and do not only benefit a single organization, institution, individual or commercial product. Applicants must submit their proposals by Feb. 18. The application is available at www.nyfvi.org/default.aspx?PageID=2489. For more information on the Specialty Crop Block Grant program, visit: www.agriculture.ny.gov/AP/slide/SpecialtyCrop.html.

The Specialty Crop Block Grant program is administered through the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets in coordination with the NYFVI, which evaluates the proposals and submits its recommendations to the Department.

Mike Jordan, chair, NYFVI Board of Directors, said, "I'm pleased that the New York Farm Viability Institute is able to continue to partner with the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets to administer this program. Our farmer review process helps ensure that resources are aligned with the needs of the agricultural community."

Cynthia Haskins, president and CEO, New York Apple Association, said, "The Specialty Crop Block Grant program is important to New York as it provides funding for initiatives that strengthen the state's economic well-being, either directly or indirectly."

Brian Reeves, president, New York State Vegetable Growers Association, said, "Through the years, this grant program has benefitted both organic and conventional growers by improving the viability of New York vegetable farms through research and education. On behalf of New York's vegetable growers, we are excited to see continued funding for the program and look forward to future advancements for our industry as a result."

Sam Filler, president, New York Wine and Grape Foundation, said, "Research projects supported through the Specialty Crop Block Grant program have helped New York's grape growing industry make advancements in vineyard management and improved integrated pest management practices. Continued funding through this program will ensure that our grape industry has access to cutting-edge research specific to growing conditions in New York State."

Helen Thomas, executive director, New York State Maple Producers Association, said, "Maple occupies a prominent place in the list of NY specialty crops. Production and sales in NY have doubled in NY in the last couple of decades. Some of this success is due to the maple research and marketing done with specialty crop grant funds in previous years. This program contributes valuable support to our development as a high-quality NY product."

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