Specialty Crops Get USDA Boost

In a recent press release, U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced the awarding of over $46 million in USDA grants to specialty crops across the country. The funds are available through the USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which was authorized as a part of the 2008 Farm Bill.

As a part of her announcement, Merrigan stressed the importance of agricultural research and scientific progress in the production of major American crops. “Over the last 60 years, agriculture, including horticulture, has become increasingly reliant on science and technology to maintain profitable production,” she stated.

SCRI funding will go towards improving agricultural research that improves crop characteristics, largely through genetic research and manipulation, minimizes threats from pests and diseases, and improves production efficiency. All of these improvements, the USDA hopes, will increase farmers’ bottom lines and stimulate production, while simultaneously creating domestic jobs.

In addition to improving production, SCRI funding will also generate increased trade overseas. In her statement, Merrigan stressed the importance that specialty crops play in the U.S. agricultural industry. American fruits, nuts, and other crops are seeing an international resurgence as free trade agreements and lowered trade barriers make these products available throughout the world. Creating stronger plant strains will hopefully lead to increased international competitiveness for American crops.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer