The Oregon Department of Agriculture has awarded more than $1.7 million in federal funds to 24 projects aimed at boosting the effectiveness of the state's fruit, vegetable, tree nut and nursery industries.
The announcement of the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funds is good news for Oregon growers, says ODA Director Katy Coba.
"A majority of our agricultural production comes from specialty crops," she says. "These projects will help our diverse array of growers and producers address their top priorities.
"The grant program has been good to Oregon, and the dollars it provides have funded many successful projects. I'm excited about this year's projects."
The federal program operates in all states and U.S. territories.
"Agriculture plays a vital role in the health and strength of our economy, and by investing in specialty crop growers and producers across the country, we can help spark new markets and job creation while expanding production of healthy, safe and affordable food," say USDA Deputy Sec. Kathleen Merrigan.\
Oregon ranks fifth in the nation in production of specialty crops. Most federal appropriations in the past have been directed to large program crops primarily grown in the Midwest and South, such as wheat, corn, soybeans and cotton.
Recent Farm Bills have attempted to provide more attention and funding to specialty crops: those which are not included in traditional large commodity support.
Each state receives a base amount under the program, but additional funds are awarded to states in proportion to the percentage of specialty crops they produce. Oregon's amount this year is slightly lower than it was in 2010.
Since last year, ODA has conducted extensive outreach to groups and organizations in an effort to attract more grant proposals for the funds. Six statewide grant training s were held last winter.
The outreach paid off with an impressive list of first-time applicants in the specialty crop grant process. Of the 54 applications received for this year's funding, 26 were new to the program.