Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday announced two U.S. Department of Agriculture investments designed to support specialty crop farmers.
The launch of the Assisting Specialty Crop Exports initiative will provide $65 million for projects that help the specialty crop sector increase global exports and expand into new markets, the USDA said. As U.S. agriculture exports continue to wane, the agency is working to help farmers break into smaller, emerging markets in parts of Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
Additionally, the USDA allocated $72.9 million in grant funding to the Assisting Specialty Crop Exports initiative, supporting growers of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and other specialty crops often sold in niche markets.
Specialty crop producers “have unique challenges and opportunities to compete in the domestic market and a vast array of barriers that prevent their world-class products from entering foreign markets,” Secretary Vilsack said. Farmers have been urging lawmakers to give their interests more consideration as Farm Bill talks progress.
“The Biden-Harris Administration is making these significant investments to maintain, open, and grow markets and reduce and eliminate trade barriers for U.S. specialty crop producers, which in turn will support rural communities, enhance our competitive edge, and help establish lifelong consumers for U.S. food and agricultural products across the world.”
According to the latest 2017 Census of Agriculture, specialty crops accounted for 30% of total crop sales in the U.S., encompassing more than 222,000 farms and 350 types of crops in addition to the major commodity crops.
Grant applications are due by May 2 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. They can be submitted electronically through www.grants.gov. More information about the programs are available through USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.