USDA marketing and inspection programs are promoting specialty crops and assuring their safety. Rod Bain has more
A recent house agriculture sub-committee budget hearing explored the many programs the USDA offers for specialty crop producers and stake holders and what was learned was that there are several programs, many that perhaps are not well known to the public at large. First, for those who don't know, former Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Rayne Pegg explains the scope of specialty crops:
"Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture."
And perhaps the most recognized USDA offering is the specialty crop block grant program:
"Specialty crop block grant program provides fundings to states and US territories to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops."
With the application deadline for the fiscal year 2011 program recently concluded. Past projects funded by this program have ranged from research funding into E.coli transmission and its impact on leafy, green crops, to farm-to-school programs that coordinate school purchases of local produce, in addition to that program:
"The farmers' market promotion program is another AMS grant program. This works to help improve and expand domestic farmers' markets, roadside stands, community supported agricultural programs, agriculture tourism activites and other direct prodcuer-to-consumer market opportunities."
But some may not realize that there are programs to address the safety and quality of specialty crops, under the jurisdiction of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS):
"The 2008 Farm Bill created two programs that take these measures further by targeting specific segments of agriculture and activities that particularly benefit the specialty crops."
APHIS Deputy Administrator Rebecca Bech says both the Plant, Pest and Disease Management Prevention Program and National Clean Plant Network have been highly effective and widely supported by stakeholders and industry. First:
"Through the Plant, Pest and Disease Management Disaster Prevention provision, APHIS has partnered with numerous states, tribes, universities and other community partners to stengthen and expand the scope of APHIS's pest and disease prevention activities."
And the National Clean Plant Network involves several partnerships within USDA:
"The network works to develop and produce clean, propagated materials so that should a plant pest or disease strike, plain plant material is available to states, private nurseries and the producers."
Rod Bain, Washington, DC