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USDA Launches Initiatives to Elevate U.S. Specialty Crops Industry

The USDA is investing in specialty crops with new resources and a $70.2 million research fund to boost U.S. agricultural competitiveness.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has initiated a new effort to bolster the specialty crops sector in America, in alignment with the Biden-Harris Administration’s goals to create new, improved market opportunities for American farmers. 

Key Takeaways:
  1. Support for Specialty Crops: USDA Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small emphasized the importance of specialty crops for nutritious foods and the commitment to keeping the industry competitive domestically and globally.
  2. Resource Directory and Feedback: Launching a Specialty Crops Resource Directory and upcoming stakeholder engagement sessions aim to address service gaps and industry needs.
  3. Research Investment: A $70.2 million investment into the Specialty Crop Research Initiative is geared towards supporting research and Extension projects that sustain food and agriculture, including innovative and profitable production systems.
  4. Global Market Access and Disaster Relief: The USDA announced the Regional Agricultural Promotion Program and the Emergency Relief Program, providing global market access and relief for disaster-impacted specialty crop producers.
  5. Nutrition Assistance Purchases: In fiscal year 2023, the USDA bought $1.8 billion worth of U.S.-produced specialty crops for federal nutrition assistance programs, bolstering domestic consumption.

To develop the article further, it’s essential to delve into the specifics of each initiative, including the Specialty Crops Resource Directory, which serves as a hub for industry producers to access comprehensive information on USDA resources. The upcoming stakeholder feedback sessions will provide a platform for direct communication between the USDA and industry representatives, ensuring that the initiatives are aligned with the needs and challenges faced by specialty crop producers.

The Specialty Crop Research Initiative’s investment is particularly noteworthy, as it supports the sustainability and competitiveness of specialty crops and addresses pressing issues like pest and disease management and food safety hazards. Highlighting the specifics of projects funded by this initiative, such as the efforts by Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Georgia, can illustrate the tangible impacts of this investment.

The article should also cover the broader context of USDA’s efforts under the Biden-Harris administration to transform America’s food system, focusing on resilience, fair markets, and equitable access to nutritious food. The USDA’s role in enhancing local and regional food production, climate-smart practices, and clean energy in rural America ties into a larger narrative of building a more sustainable and equitable food system for the future.

The USDA’s comprehensive approach to supporting the specialty crops industry reflects a multifaceted strategy to enhance competitiveness, innovation, and resilience within America’s agricultural landscape.

Image provided by the USDA

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