Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $1.1 million in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to further the research, safety and promotion of specialty crops in New York State. The Specialty Crop Block Grant program, administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, includes fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, hops, and nursery crops, and works to enhance the competitiveness of New York farms by forming new partnerships to create innovations in agriculture that benefit the states economy.
"New York's agricultural sector offers a diverse array of specialty crops as part of an already robust and thriving industry that has grown continually over the past three years," Governor Cuomo said. "This $1.1 million will help local farmers across the state expand and provide valuable information to benefit our ever evolving agro-food industry, and spread the word on New York products nationwide."
Funding is being provided through the Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004 (amended under the federal 2014 Farm Bill), which authorizes the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide state assistance for specialty crop competitiveness programs. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets is soliciting proposals that solely enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops and benefit the greatest number of beneficiaries in one of three priority areas. These include research and grower education, food safety, marketing and promotion.
Acting State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, Farmers are some of the greatest innovators in the entire world, but many of these innovations cannot be brought to light without strong research behind them. As a farmer of specialty crops, I know firsthand how invaluable the Specialty Crop Block Grant program is in helping farmers enhance their operations.
United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, New York is home to many fruits and vegetable farms that have historically been overlooked in federal farm funding. Specialty crops face different opportunities, but also challenges. In the 2014 Farm Bill, I secured additional funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program which will help farmers innovate new markets, seed varieties, pest control techniques, and farming methods. Our New York farmers will now be able to enhance the competitiveness of their crops and strengthen our agricultural economy.
Congresswoman Nita Lowey said, New York produces a wide variety of specialty crops that not only support the economic growth of our rural communities but also ensure that New Yorkers throughout our state have access to fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables that provide healthy and delicious options for a well-balanced diet. As the Ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, I will fight for the Specialty Crop Block Grant and other initiatives that support our specialty crop farmers in New York."
Congressman Chris Gibson said, As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I am proud to advocate for funding to support specialty crop research that provides real benefits to New York orchards, fruit farms, and vegetable growers. These operations are a major component of our economy and critical sources of healthful, local food. Having fought to preserve research funding in the new Farm Bill, I am grateful to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets for connecting New York farmers to this important programming.
Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney said, "Delivering on a historic farm bill was one of my top priorities because it gets results for the hardworking Hudson Valley farmers who create thousands of local jobs, pump hundreds of millions into our economy, and provide healthy fresh food for our schools and families. After the last Congress jeopardized this important program, I'm proud we renewed this investment in the farmers who drive the Hudson Valley economy."
To apply for this funding, please visit www.agriculture.ny.gov/RFPS.html. Eligible applicants include not-for-profit organizations, not-for-profit educational institutions, and state, local and Indian tribal governments. Projects must be completed within two years and six months from the award date, and are expected to be announced in September 2014.