Aug 5, 2008
USDA Announces $28.4 Million for Hort Crop Research

The Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service announced June 16 that it “anticipates a Specialty Crops Research Initiative funding opportunity,” signaling university and other research horticulturists to get ready to submit proposals for research projects.

On July 11, the application forms were not yet ready but Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer announced that the funding had arrived – $28.4 million for research and Extension projects in fiscal year 2008. That year ends Sept. 31, and the money needs to be allocated by then.

“This is a substantial investment in scientific research and technology for production of specialty crops that will advance their large contribution to America’s agriculture both domestically and in world markets,” Schafer said.

Funding for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative was authorized through the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (the Farm Bill). It provides $50 million each year for fiscal years 2009 through 2012 for a total of $230 million over the five years of the Farm Bill.

The Specialty Crop Research Initiative has five focus areas: 1) plant breeding, genetics and genomics research to improve crop characteristics; 2) efforts to identify and address threats from pests and diseases; 3) innovations and technology, including improved mechanization and technologies that delay or inhibit ripening; 4) efforts to improve production efficiency, productivity and profitability; and 5) methods to prevent, detect, monitor, control and respond to potential food safety hazards in the production and processing of specialty crops.

The U.S. specialty crop industry is comprised of producers and handlers of fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery crops, including floriculture. The industry accounted for 10 million harvested cropland acres in 2004 and a combined value of more than $50 billion in sales.

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