USDA awards Florida specialty crop block grant funds

03/30/2009 02:00:00 AM

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded Florida $850,000 for 2008 specialty crop block grant projects.

The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is designed to enhance the competitiveness of the U.S. specialty crop industry. 

Specialty crops are defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture (including floriculture and turfgrass sod).
Funding is provided to state departments of agriculture from the 2008 Farm Bill through the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service.

Each state receives a base grant and a proportionate funding based on the state’s cash receipts for production of specialty crops. Florida ranks second in the nation in specialty crop production.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services received $477,169.00 in Specialty Crop 2008 Farm Bill funds and $372,568.56 for the 2008 Specialty Crop Block Grant.  Total funding received in 2008 was $849,738, according to a news release.

The following projects have received funding:

• Florida A&M University Center for Viticulture - $102,500: This project establishes the Florida Vine Improvement and Distribution Project. The project will cultivate and provide disease-free planting materials to Florida nurseries and grape growers throughout Florida.

Plants will include muscadine grapes and Florida hybrid bunch grapes.  A foundation-certified nursery will be established at the FAMU Center for Viticulture.  FAMU will provide training to nurseries and growers throughout the state to help increase grape acreage and wine production in Florida.  

• Florida Blueberry Growers Association - $160,000: Phase I of the project provides for research to determine if blueberry plants of various cultivars propagated in sterile cultures will have fewer problems and be more resistant to disease.

Phase II of the Project provides additional research funds to identify a type of blueberry which can withstand mechanical harvesting. Mechanical harvest has the ability to significantly increase production efficiency and enhance the competitiveness of Florida Blueberries in both national and international markets.

• Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers Inc. - $66,000: FOG will conduct research to aid in promoting and marketing organic and transitional Florida specialty crops.  FOG will provide education and outreach to promote the purchase and increased consumption of transitional specialty crops as well as certified organic. 

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