On October 1, 2012, the Department of Agriculture announced that $101 million in grants are going to producers of specialty crops like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other foods. About $55 million of the funds are going to 56 different crop block grants that fund 748 operations across the United States. The Department of Agriculture hopes the funds will increase economic opportunities for local and regional farmers.
The Department of Agriculture states the other $46 million is used to foster new and continuing research efforts that producers and businesses use for sustainable and profitable specialty crops.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated the new funds will help both small and large scale farmers adjust and succeed in the current market. Vilsack was optimistic in his comments about the current condition of American agriculture. He noted that exports and income still maintain record levels. Additionally, the farm debt has been reduced by half since the 1980s, and agriculture still represents 1 in 12 jobs in the U.S.
Vilsack stated, “By investing in projects that stimulated growth and development for specialty crop growers of all sizes, we’re helping American farmers establish a marketplace for new business opportunities in each region of the country. These investments will support local and regional markets, and improve access to healthy food for millions of children and supply thousands of farmers markets, restaurants and other businesses with fresh, high-quality fruits and vegetables.”
The $55 million for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program supports the following:
• education about nutrition and consumption of specialty crops
• improvement in distribution techniques at cheaper costs
• good agricultural and manufacturing techniques for small farmers
• research for green initiatives
• new seed varieties
• food safety
• the control of pests and plant diseases with organic measures
• increasing food supplies for desert communities
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture