Peterson announces Minnesota specialty crop grant awards

Oct 16, 2009

(WASHINGTON , DC) — Congressman Collin Peterson today announced that the State of Minnesota has been awarded $578,000 for 13 projects under USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.  

“In the last Farm Bill I worked hard to include funding for these types of investments in fruit and vegetable production, conservation, nutrition and renewable energy,” Peterson said.

Through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, USDA is committed to increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops; improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems; assisting all entities in the specialty crop distribution chain in developing Good Agricultural, Good Handling and Good Manufacturing practices, including cost share arrangements for funding audits of small farmer, packer and processor systems; investing in specialty crop research; enhancing food safety; developing new and improved specialty crop varieties; eradicating pest and plant health issues; and fostering organic and sustainable production practices.  

These projects are designed to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, which are defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. Upon reviewing states' plans for funding, USDA selected projects that support local and rural agriculture interests, increase the competitiveness of small producers, and promote or create direct marketing opportunities for specialty crop producers.

With these funds, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture will:

Partner with the University of Minnesota to increase the use of Minnesota-grown fruits and vegetables in school nutrition programs by making the connections to schools receiving funding through the recently authorized Federal Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program
Partner with the Minnesota Project, Inc. to build markets for locally-grown specialty crops by providing technical assistance and training to restaurant and college campus buyers in Minnesota through Heartland Food Network program
Partner with the University of Minnesota to design local food supply chains for specialty crops producers in Central Minnesota
Partner with the Organic Tree Fruit Association to make locally grown tree fruit crops more competitive in Minnesota by helping growers take advantage of the increasing interest in local organic products
Partner with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy to bring more healthy locally grown produce into Minnesota Health Care Institutions by increasing awareness and expanding the purchase and consumption of locally produced specialty crops by hospital patients, employees and visitors
Partner with the Minnesota Grown Promotion Group, Inc. to assist Minnesota specialty crop producers by enhancing Minnesota’s buy local campaign for specialty crops in the Minnesota Grown Program through: development of a new database of fruit and vegetable growers who market to wholesale markets such as grocery stores and restaurants; continuation to improve functionality of the Minnesota Grown Directory; continuation to increase consumer purchases of fruits and vegetables by driving traffic to the Minnesota Grown website through the use of keywords related to specialty crops; and development of new point-of-sale materials to identify and promote Minnesota Grown fruits and vegetables in grocery stores. Because improvements to the online Directory benefit non-specialty crop producers, the Minnesota Grown Promotion Group will provide matching funds to pay for no less than 25% of the project costs
Partner with the Minnesota Food Association to assist socially disadvantaged and limited resource farms in the Minnesota and the St. Croix River Valley in establishing and growing their organic specialty crop farm enterprises
Enhance the competitiveness of apples, berries, grapes, fresh market mixed vegetables, pumpkins, and fresh market sweet corn in Minnesota by a specialty crop enterprise management program
Partner with the University of Minnesota to develop native and native-European hybrid hazelnut germplasm and agronomics for Minnesota
Partner with the Northarvest Bean Growers Association and the North Dakota Department of Agriculture to strengthen value-added programs on dry edible beans through: increased communication efforts on the health benefits of dry beans to health professionals; the summary of existing scientific research to prepare a health-related statement to assist the trade and consumers in understanding the health benefits of dry beans; and the expansion of current basic research in discovery and quantification of health benefits of dry beans
Partner with the Minnesota Turf Seed Council to determine the seed production potential of the native prairie junegrass in Minnesota and evaluate the species for use as a low-input, sustainable turf grass
Partner with the Women’s Environmental Institute to increase production and consumption of culturally based healthful specialty food crops in Northside & Philips Neighborhoods of Minneapolis by providing opportunities and resources for cross-cultural, cross-neighborhood research, development, and implementation of economic initiatives
Perform pre-award and post-award activities in order to administrate the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funding and ensure that the State Agency and sub-awardees abide by Federal and State requirements and regulations