McAuliffe announces new specialty crop grants for Virginia
Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced funding for 16 agriculture-related projects aimed at promoting and enhancing the competitiveness of Virginia’s specialty crops and creating more economic opportunities.
The projects awarded grants resulted from a competitive process established by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service Specialty Crop Block Grant funds. Specialty crops including apples, wine grapes, sprouts, chestnuts, strawberries, Christmas trees, and more will benefit from the grants. Other grants focus on food safety, protecting honey bees, Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) implementation on small farms, marketing and education programs, food safety education, cover crops, nutrient cycling, and more. Grants range from $20,000 to $50,000 per applicant.
“These federal grants represent more than a half-million dollar investment in Virginia’s economy and will boost agricultural development and job creation, especially in our rural communities,” said Governor McAuliffe. “The innovative projects awarded grants will help enhance agriculture’s position as the Commonwealth’s largest industry as we work with our private sector partners to build a new Virginia economy. I congratulate these individuals, educational institutions, and organizations for pursuing concepts that will help growers add value and enhance marketing opportunities across Virginia.”
The Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004 authorized the USDA to provide funds to states to promote specialty crops including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery crops. When considering grants for the USDA Specialty Crop Program, VDACS gave priority to projects that included the following activities:
- Assisting farmers in transitioning into specialty, high-value agricultural initiatives that address the eligible specialty crops;
- Increasing net farm income through high-value or value-added enterprises;
- Finding new ways to market or to add value to specialty agricultural products; and
- Developing pilot and demonstration programs in specialty agriculture that have the potential for transferability within rural Virginia.
“Today’s announcement is more good news for Virginia agriculture and helps bolster the Governor’s efforts to keep agriculture and forestry at the forefront of his overall economic development strategic plans and his work to build a new Virginia economy,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore. “The projects and more than $560,000 in grants being awarded also highlight Virginia’s diversified agricultural interests and the potential opportunities those interests provide across a broad geographical footprint.”
VDACS awarded grants totaling $564,828.97 for the following projects:
- Advancing Organic Apple Production in Virginia – Virginia Tech, Winchester AREC, Winchester, VA
- Beneficial Bacterial Endophytes Improve Grape Vine Growth and Cold Tolerance to Strengthen the Virginia Wine Industry – Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, Danville, VA
- Chestnut Production and Marketing Feasibility Study – Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability (VA FAIRS), Richmond, VA
- Cider Production from Virginia-grown Apples: Development of Research-Based Fermentation Strategies – Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
- Commonwealth Quality Alliance Education – Virginia Wineries Association, Richmond, VA
- Cover Crops and Nutrient Cycling for Vegetable Production in Virginia – Virginia Tech, Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Extension Center (AREC), Painter, VA
- Developing Organic and Integrated Management Strategies for Pest Control in Annual Strawberry Production – Virginia Tech, Hampton Roads AREC, Virginia Beach, VA
- Development of Commercial Shelf-Stable Recipes for Specialty Crops – Virginia Food Works,Charlottesville, VA
- Development of Soybean Varieties for Sprouts as a Profitable Vegetable Crop – Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
- Enhancing Market Opportunities for Virginia’s Specialty Crops and Small to Mid-size Farms through a Ten Percent Marketing and Education Campaign – Virginia Food System Council, Richmond, VA
- Genetically Improved Fraser Fir Seed Orchard – Mount Rogers Area Christmas Tree Growers Association,Whitetop, VA
- Increasing Capacity to Provide Comprehensive Fresh Produce Food Safety Education from Farm to Fork – Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
- Low Cost Protection from Pesticide Damage for Honey Bee Colonies – Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Richmond, VA
- Making Food Safety Certification Available and Affordable for Virginia Farmers – Appalachian Sustainable Development, Abingdon, VA
- Multi-tiered Quality Assurance and Cost-share Program to Advance GAP Implementation on Small Farms – Local Food Hub, Charlottesville, VA
- Transitioning Farms to Sustainable Practices for Economic Viability and Environmental Health – Arcadia Food, Alexandria, VA
According to a 2013 economic impact study conducted by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia, agriculture and forestry are two of Virginia’s largest industries with a combined economic impact of $70 billion annually. Agriculture generates more than $52 billion per annum, while forestry induces over $17 billion. The industries also provide more than 400,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. More information about the Weldon Cooper Center’s study can be found at http://www.coopercenter.org/node/2/publications/economic-impacts-agriculture-and-forestry-virginia-revised-2012.