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Helping States Build an Agricultural Future

Posted by Elanor Starmer, Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator in Food and Nutrition Farming
Oct 17, 2016
A woman picking apples
A woman picking apples—one of many specialty crops—grown in New England. Since the beginning of the Obama administration, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has awarded $455.5 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants to all 50 states and several U.S. territories. These grants have supported 6,138 projects that increase capacity, opportunity, and economic success for America’s specialty crop growers. Photo courtesy Alberto Romero.

Specialty crops—fruits, vegetables, nuts and nursery crops—are an agricultural and dietary staple.  They’re a central part of a healthy diet and are vital to the economic success of American agriculture and to the farmers and businesses that rely on them for their livelihoods.

That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, works to support and expand markets for specialty crop growers and producers.  This year, through our Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, we awarded $62.5 million to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories to support critical work related to this segment of the agricultural industry.

USDA’s investments are funding a total of 690 projects that will help growers tackle a variety of issues—from food safety training to setting up shared processing centers.  These block grants give states and territories vital resources to invest in their growers, build stronger markets and strengthen rural America.

At USDA’s Fall Forum in New Hampshire today, I had a chance to visit with local producers and talk about some of the key issues that will impact the future of agriculture. I heard about the many opportunities and challenges that local farmers are facing, including challenges for small and midsized produce growers.  The conversation focused on how we can build on our successes, address the changing landscape and continue to build a strong partnership to support this sector long into the future.

While the Specialty Crop Block Grant program supports a wide range of efforts, some projects help build the capacity of communities to produce and market specialty crops locally and regionally – and there’s a lot of that work taking place in the Granite State.

One project funded this year is led by the Small and Beginner Farmers of New Hampshire in partnership with Merrimack County Conservation District. It will increase access to freeze drying and flash freezing equipment for specialty crop growers. This project will help farmers offer more products beyond the season for locally grown fresh produce, increase farm profits and provide local products to New Hampshire residents throughout the year.

USDA is a committed partner and supporter of American producers regardless of their size, shape or market share.  Since the beginning of the Obama administration, AMS has awarded $455.5 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants to support 6,138 projects.  USDA continues to partner with state departments of agriculture to increase opportunities for specialty crop producers by supporting projects that create new business opportunities, expand local food systems and improve food safety.

USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative (KYF2) coordinates the Department's strides to develop strong local and regional food systems – including SCBGP projects.  Information on local and regional supply chain resources is available on the KYF2 website, and the KYF2 Compass can help users locate USDA investments in their community.

More information on how USDA investments are connecting producers with consumers, expanding rural economic opportunities, and increasing access to healthy food is available in Chapter IV of USDA Results on Medium.

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition Farming