Oct 20, 2020Michigan ag unit announces 2020 Specialty Crop Block Grant recipients
The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) announced Oct. 20 the Michigan recipients of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
The program offers federal funding to state departments of agriculture to support the specialty crop industry. Grants focus on marketing, training, certifications, food safety, pest control, and plant health for specialty crops, including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, plants and/or flowers.
“Unlike commodities such as grain, cotton, and oilseed, specialty crops do not receive direct aid from the farm bill, so these grants are critical for Michigan’s specialty crop industry,” said MDARD Director Gary McDowell. “And even though these are federal grants, they pass through the state departments of agriculture to help ensure the funds are allocated based on each state’s unique needs. It’s a great program, and we’re proud to help support Michigan’s specialty crop producers.”
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan,, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, lauded the $1,992,250 million to support Michigan specialty crop growers who produce fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, nursery plants, and flowers. These funds come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and will support 20 projects throughout the state.
“Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables are not only a source of great pride – they are also critical to our state’s economy, Stabenow said. “This new support will help Michigan farmers get their products off the farm and onto our plates during these difficult times.”
Each of the 20 projects are targeted to help specialty crop growers sell more products locally and globally, protect crops from pests and diseases, and market products to be competitive.
In 2008, Senator Stabenow authored the first ever fruits and vegetables section of a Farm Bill to provide support for so-called “specialty crops” which includes fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, nursery products and floriculture. These crops are critical to the state’s economy, as Michigan leads the nation in producing a wider variety of crops than any state other than California.
Reactions from project grantees:
“The Cherry Marketing Institute (CMI) is a national research and promotion organization that works on behalf of Michigan, Utah, Wisconsin and Utah cherry growers. Michigan producing 75% of the tart cherry supply for the U.S. CMI is grateful for the awarded USDA Specialty Crop Grant that they received to enhance the Michigan cherry industry. These funds leveraged with grower assessments provide an opportunity to expand our mission to showcase Michigan cherries on a national platform. The partnership with the USDA and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is a tremendous asset for Michigan cherry growers,” said Julie Gordon, Chief Financial Officer of the Cherry Marketing Institute.
“The Michigan Blueberry Commission is excited to once again be able to advance our research platform through the specialty crop block grant program. This program has paved the way at making our grower dollars go twice the distance, in better positioning our state’s growers to compete in an ever-increasing global market. Anthracnose Fruit Rot in blueberries is a problem that our growers rated as a top priority problem. Through USDA’s SCBG program, we’re able to bring about solid solutions through industry driven research,” said Kevin Robson, Michigan Blueberry Commission.
“I am very excited for the opportunity that this grant represents to improve the economic wellbeing of Michigan asparagus farmers. Every year we see an increase in imported asparagus coming from Mexico and Peru right during our 8-week season. These imports tend to glut the market driving down returns for everyone. Market research has clearly shown that US consumers prefer asparagus that is grown close to home in this country. We will use this grant, along with grower funds, to educate consumers and wholesale and retail buyers about how identify Michigan grown asparagus. We will emphasize that our crop is sustainably grown, is fresher, tastes better and travels a lot less miles from field to fork. This is a huge undertaking and we simply couldn’t do this without the additional funding provided through the Specialty Crop Block Grant program,” said John Bakker, Executive Director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board.
“SCBG funding stretches every assessment dollar into roughly two dollars which are dedicated to production research. Research projects over the years have improved quality and yield – important factors that keep Michigan’s dry bean growers competitive globally as we work to feed the world nutrient dense, healthy Michigan beans,” said Joe Cramer, Executive Director of the Michigan Bean Commission.
“The Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council (MGGC) would like to thank Senator Stabenow for her continued support of Michigan’s agriculture industry and the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) Program. In collaboration with Michigan State University researchers Drs. Roberto Lopez and Mary Hausbeck, SCBG funds will be used to develop and extend novel strategies to control grey mold (Botrytis blight), a plant disease that is increasingly resistant to fungicides. This research will help our growers reduce fungicide use and plant losses and increase their profitability,” Goeff Hansen, Executive Director of the Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council.
“Downy Mildew harms some of the most valued vegetable crops in Michigan, like pickling cucumbers and squash. Downy Mildew has developed resistance to key fungicides and finding new strategies to deal with the disease will be the focus of this Specialty Crop Block Grant,” said Greg Bird, Executive Director of the Michigan Vegetable Council.
“Specialty Crop Block Grants have allowed the Michigan Apple Committee to do important consumer awareness and marketing campaigns that encourage increased movement of Michigan Apples at retail. These grants are a significant part of our consumer education work – funds we leverage to get even more benefit from the grower dollars in our budget,” said Diane Smith, Executive Director of the Michigan Apple Committee. “We remain focused on our mission of engaging in market development, consumer education, research and communications for the benefit of Michigan’s apple growers. The Specialty Crop Block Grant program enables us to enhance our efforts to aid in the success and the sustainability of the Michigan Apple industry.”
The grants will enhance the competitiveness of the state’s specialty crops. Below is the list of grantees:
- Cherry Marketing Institute – Driving Demand for U.S. Grown Tart Cherries with Influential Food and Beverage Manufacturers, $125,000
- Hop Growers of Michigan – Integrated Approaches to Managing Cone Diseases in Michigan Hopyards, $73,258
- Michigan Apple Committee – Target Audience Engagement to Increase Sales of Michigan Apples, $125,000
- Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board – Sales & Marketing Tools to Advance the Michigan Asparagus Industry, $125,000
- Michigan Bean Commission – Multifaceted Strategies to Communicate the Value of Michigan Dry Beans, $107,200
- Michigan Bean Commission – Optimization of Fertilizer Rate Recommendations for Michigan Dry Bean Growers, $99,998
- Michigan Blueberry Commission – Evaluating Effective Management Strategies to Control Anthracnose Fruit Rot in Michigan Blueberries, $70,258
- Michigan Celery Research Inc. – Michigan Celery Growers Seek Answers to Plant “Meltdown,” which Threatens the Industry’s Future, $70,046
- Michigan Christmas Tree Association – Development of Integrated Weed Control Program for Michigan Christmas Tree Production, $72,744
- Michigan Grape Society – Cold Hardiness Monitoring for Grapevines in Southwest Michigan, $40,000
- Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council – Greenhouse Growers Seek Innovative Solutions to Control Botrytis Blight, $70,000
- Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association – Debating Glyphosate, Understanding the Prominence of Herbicide Resistance and Residuals in Nurseries, $100,000
- Michigan Potato Industry Commission – Identification of Potato Varieties with Postharvest Disease Resistance, $85,625
- Michigan State Horticultural Society – Managing Downy Mildew in Michigan Vineyards: Investigating Alternative Products, Fungicide Efficacy, and Resistance Levels, $99,500
- Michigan Vegetable Council – Strategies are Needed to Protect Michigan’s Cucurbits from Fungicide Resistant Downy Mildew, $91,577
- National Grape Cooperative – Addressing Priority Issues in Berry Moth Management for Michigan Vineyards, $99,637
- Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Office – Publication of Instructional Manual for Operating a Five-Acre Institutional Horticulture Farm Using an Incarcerated Labor Force, $125,000
- Southwest Michigan Wine Trail – A Comprehensive Marketing Project to Improve Competitiveness of Lake Michigan Shore Wines, $88,252
- MDARD International Marketing Program – International and Domestic Promotion of Michigan Specialty Crops, $161,626.85