The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) invests an additional $25 million to combat food loss and waste.
Agriculture USDA

USDA Awards $72.9 Million to Boost Specialty Crop Industry

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has recently unveiled a substantial investment of $72.9 million to empower 55 states and territories through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP). This initiative is designed to bolster the specialty crop sector’s competitiveness and support specialty crop growers by fueling marketing, education, and research efforts.

Announcing this significant achievement, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack highlighted that the current Specialty Crop Block Grant awards have surpassed an extraordinary milestone, having now surpassed $1 billion invested in nearly 12,000 projects. These projects collectively champion the U.S. specialty crop industry, emphasizing the program’s pivotal role in fortifying small and mid-sized producers. Furthermore, these endeavors align seamlessly with the overarching goals of the Biden-Harris Administration in securing continuous access to locally grown, fresh specialty crop products for Americans.

The essence of the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program resides in its commitment to supporting projects initiated by the departments of agriculture in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The program’s authorization stems from the 2018 Farm Bill, reflecting its enduring importance and impact.

The central focus of the SCBGP lies in channeling funding towards projects that cater to the diverse needs of U.S. producers engaged in growing fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops. These endeavors encompass an array of initiatives that collectively contribute to the industry’s growth and sustainability. Some of the funded projects encompass vital areas such as food safety enhancements, specialized crop research (including research directed towards conservation and environmental considerations), innovation in seed varieties and specialty crops, and measures for effective pest and disease control.

Moreover, the scope of the SCBGP reaches beyond mere cultivation and extends to education and nutritional awareness. A notable facet of the program is emphasizing enhancing the knowledge and consumption of specialty crops among children and adults. By fostering a deeper understanding of these crops’ nutritional value and benefits, the program aims to impact public health and eating habits positively.

Efficiency and sustainability are integral to the SCBGP’s mission. A portion of the funded projects is dedicated to refining distribution systems. This involves initiatives aimed at improving the efficiency of supply chains and lowering operational costs, thereby contributing to the accessibility of specialty crops for consumers while aiding producers.

To gain further insight into the breadth and significance of the funded projects, the SCBGP’s 2023 Grant Awards webpage provides detailed information via individual press releases for each state and territory. This transparency underscores the program’s commitment to accountability and the clear communication of its impactful initiatives.

The USDA’s role extends beyond the scope of this program. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, the USDA has embarked on an ambitious journey to transform America’s food system. Priorities encompass fostering resilient local and regional food production, establishing equitable market conditions for all producers, ensuring universal access to safe and nutritious food, nurturing new markets for farmers and producers by integrating climate-smart practices, making substantial investments in rural infrastructure and clean energy capabilities, and actively striving for equity within the Department by dismantling systemic barriers and fostering a more representative workforce.

The USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program stands as a beacon of support and advancement for the specialty crop industry in the United States. With its strategic allocation of funds to enhance various aspects of specialty crop production, research, education, and distribution, the program plays a pivotal role in shaping a more competitive, sustainable, and nutritionally aware agricultural landscape. This resounding commitment is a testament to the USDA’s dedication to fostering growth and prosperity within the agricultural sector, ultimately benefiting producers and consumers alike.

Image provided by the USDA

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