USDA Grants Will Fund Nine New Advanced Research, Marketing, and Food Safety Projects

Over $15 Million Awarded Since 2006 Has Helped Improve Farming Techniques, Protect Agricultural Crops, and Advance the Food Supply in New York

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today announced that more than $1.2 million in funding will support nine advanced research, education, and marketing projects to help specialty crop farms across New York State grow and remain competitive. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets secured the grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant program. 

New York’s specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, maple syrup, and honey, and are among the state’s most valuable agricultural products. Since the USDA began the program in 2006, New York State has been awarded $15.1 million for 148specialty crop projects across the state.

Commissioner Ball said, “This grant program supports New York’s agricultural community by investing in research, enhancing food safety techniques, improving efficiency, encouraging innovation, and helping our farmers remain competitive in an ever-changing marketplace. Thanks to this funding, New York’s farmers will be able to grow stronger and better crops, ultimately helping to get more fresh, nutritious New York foods on the tables of our families.”

The Specialty Crop Block Grant program is administered through the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, in coordination with the New York Farm Viability Institute (NYFVI). NYFVI recommended $655,346 be provided to Cornell University for seven grower research and education projects that will focus on:

  • Researching pre-harvest apple finish disorders such as lenticel breakdown, bitter pit, and apple scarf in order to mitigate grower losses and maintain the quality of New York State apples
  • Developing recommendations for proper use of apple rootstocks which help increase apple production for New York State apple growers
  • Advancing downy mildew resistance for New York grape growers
  • Promoting pollinators in New York berry crops in the era of spotted-wing drosophila
  • Biological control for managing the most serious pests of potato in conventional and organic production systems
  • Planning for the future pests by updating integrated pest management resources for nursery and Christmas tree producers
  • Advancing thrips management in onion using a new sampling plan and digital application

Cornell University was also awarded $210,000 for research regarding best labor management practices and labor-saving technologies on specialty crop farms.

In addition, over $266,000 from the Specialty Crop Block Grant program will also support the marketing and promotion of New York’s specialty crops.

David Grusenmeyer, Executive Director of the New York Farm Viability Institute, said: “NYFVI is grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Department and put our resources and expertise to work helping serve the production research needs of New York specialty crop farmers. This year’s seven new projects bring the total funded through NYFVI to 39 projects with 28 currently active. Given the importance of specialty crops to New York’s food system, the SCBG program is an important asset to help New York farmers with production challenges, and helps provide safe, abundant, and reliable local food for New York consumers.”

“From working on sustainable pest and disease management techniques, to exploring labor saving efficiencies, the specialty crops block grants program is a critical way for Cornell CALS faculty, staff and students to engage in our core mission – finding positive solutions to food system challenges faced by New York farmers,” said Benjamin Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “I am so grateful for the support of Commissioner Ball and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, along with the NY Farm Viability Institute, in recognizing the value of science in sparking innovation as our family farmers and farm employees work to feed us all.” 

Cynthia Haskins, President & CEO of the New York State Apple Association, said: “The Specialty Crop Block Grant program is crucial to the specialty crop industry in New York State. Whether it is funding much needed pre-harvest and post-harvest research, to labor, to funding additional marketing promotions to build strong awareness, the fruit and vegetable industry is quite grateful for this program. The importance of nutritious food is on everyone’s mind now more than ever, and this grant funding program contributes to New York State producing safe and healthy food.”

Since 2015, the NYFVI has supported the Department by administering its competitive application process. NYFVI evaluates the research proposals, reviews applications, submits recommendations to the Department and oversees the progress of the projects. Grant funds are awarded to applicants whose projects have statewide significance to the specialty crop industry and build knowledge that will help all growers.

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