Governor McAuliffe Announces new specialty crop grants for Virginia

Governor Terry McAuliffe  announced ten agriculture-related projects in Virginia have been awarded $393,999 in grant funding from the United States Department of Agriculture. The grant will promote and enhance the competitiveness of Virginia’s specialty crops and create more economic development opportunities across the Commonwealth. The project awards resulted from a competitive grant process established by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service for the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service Specialty Crop Block Grant funds.

“As one of Virginia’s largest industries, agriculture depends on quality research and data to remain competitive in the 21st century economy,” said Governor McAuliffe. “These USDA grants will ensure Virginia farmers continue to yield some of the best crops on the market, with 40 percent of the funding directed toward research in various aspects of food safety and quality. I congratulate these organizations and educational institutions for pursuing innovative research that will help enhance marketing opportunities and food safety for growers across the commonwealth.”

“Today’s announcement is good news for Virginia agriculture and helps bolster the Governor’s work to keep the industry at the forefront of his overall economic development strategic plan,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Basil Gooden. “In addition to food safety, these projects highlight hops; insect, disease and weed control; cider; and our honey and mason bee populations. They illustrate Virginia’s extremely diversified agricultural interests across a broad geographic footprint.”

The Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004 authorizes the USDA to provide funds to the 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 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 add value to specialty agricultural products; and/or
  • Developing pilot and demonstration programs in specialty agriculture that have the potential for transferability within rural Virginia.

Specialty crops, including apples, berries, herbs, hops, nursery products, pears, wine grapes and more, will benefit from the grants. Other grants focus on food safety, training, marketing, pollinators and plant diseases, or on production research for specific geographical areas.  Grants range from $30,000 to $44,000 per applicant. VDACS awarded grants totaling $393,999 to the following recipients and projects from Virginia Tech:

  • Building Capacity to Meet Virginia Produce Grower Needs for the Food Safety Modernization Act Water Testing – Amber D. Vallotton, Fresh Produce Food Safety Team Coordinator, Department of Horticulture
  • Internalization of Salmonella in Commercial Cultivars of Tomato and Pepper Plants – Laura Strawn, Assistant Professor and Produce Safety Extension Specialist, Eastern Shore Agriculture Research and Extension Center, Painter; and Co-Principal Investigator: Steve Rideout, Associate Professor and Plant Pathology Extension Specialist, Eastern Shore AREC, Painter
  • Risk of Sand Filtration Systems to Act as a Reservoir and Transmission Vehicle for Pathogens –  Strawn and Rideout
  • Impact of site selection on cultivar performance and flavor profile of hops (Humulus lupulus L.) – Holly Scoggins, Associate Professor, Department of Horticulture
  • Developing and Promoting a Multi-pest Scouting Program for Sweet Corn in Virginia – Thomas P. Kuhar, Professor and Vegetable Entomology Specialist, Department of Entomology
  • Sampling for Trissolcus japonicus, a New Asian Egg Parasitoid of Brown Marmorated Stink Bug – Christopher Bergh, Professor of Entomology
  • New Technology and Techniques for Weed Control in Virginia Vegetable Crops – Charles W. Cahoon and Stephanie Romelczyk, Eastern Shore AREC, Painter and Stephanie Romelczyk, ANR Agent, Virginia Cooperative Extension
  • Cider Production from Virginia-Grown Apples: Research-based Processing and Fermentation Strategies – Amanda Stewart, Assistant Professor, Department of Food Science and Technology
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