10/20/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 10/20/2020 15:30
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today announced $1,992,250 million to support Michigan specialty crop growers who produce fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, nursery plants, and flowers. These funds come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and will support 20 projects throughout the state.
'Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables are not only a source of great pride - they are also critical to our state's economy' said Senator Stabenow. 'This new support will help Michigan farmers get their products off the farm and onto our plates during these difficult times.'
Each of the 20 projects are targeted to help specialty crop growers sell more products locally and globally, protect crops from pests and diseases, and market products to be competitive.
In 2008, Senator Stabenow authored the first ever fruits and vegetables section of a Farm Bill to provide support for so-called 'specialty crops' which includes fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, nursery products and floriculture. These crops are critical to the state's economy, as Michigan leads the nation in producing a wider variety of crops than any state other than California.
'The Cherry Marketing Institute (CMI) is a national research and promotion organization that works on behalf of Michigan, Utah, Wisconsin and Utah cherry growers. Michigan producing 75% of the tart cherry supply for the U.S. CMI is grateful for the awarded USDA Specialty Crop Grant that they received to enhance the Michigan cherry industry. These funds leveraged with grower assessments provide an opportunity to expand our mission to showcase Michigan cherries on a national platform. The partnership with the USDA and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is a tremendous asset for Michigan cherry growers,' saidJulie Gordon, Chief Financial Officer of the Cherry Marketing Institute.
'The Michigan Blueberry Commission is excited to once again be able to advance our research platform through the specialty crop block grant program. This program has paved the way at making our grower dollars go twice the distance, in better positioning our state's growers to compete in an ever-increasing global market. Anthracnose Fruit Rot in blueberries is a problem that our growers rated as a top priority problem. Through USDA's SCBG program, we're able to bring about solid solutions through industry driven research,' said Kevin Robson, Michigan Blueberry Commission.
'I am very excited for the opportunity that this grant represents to improve the economic wellbeing of Michigan asparagus farmers. Every year we see an increase in imported asparagus coming from Mexico and Peru right during our 8-week season. These imports tend to glut the market driving down returns for everyone. Market research has clearly shown that US consumers prefer asparagus that is grown close to home in this country. We will use this grant, along with grower funds, to educate consumers and wholesale and retail buyers about how identify Michigan grown asparagus. We will emphasize that our crop is sustainably grown, is fresher, tastes better and travels a lot less miles from field to fork. This is a huge undertaking and we simply couldn't do this without the additional funding provided through the Specialty Crop Block Grant program,' said John Bakker, Executive Director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board.
'SCBG funding stretches every assessment dollar into roughly two dollars which are dedicated to production research. Research projects over the years have improved quality and yield - important factors that keep Michigan's dry bean growers competitive globally as we work to feed the world nutrient dense, healthy Michigan beans,' said Joe Cramer, Executive Director of the Michigan Bean Commission.
'The Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council (MGGC) would like to thank Senator Stabenow for her continued support of Michigan's agriculture industry and the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) Program. In collaboration with Michigan State University researchers Drs. Roberto Lopez and Mary Hausbeck, SCBG funds will be used to develop and extend novel strategies to control grey mold (Botrytis blight), a plant disease that is increasingly resistant to fungicides. This research will help our growers reduce fungicide use and plant losses and increase their profitability,' Goeff Hansen, Executive Director of the Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council.
'Downy Mildew harms some of the most valued vegetable crops in Michigan, like pickling cucumbers and squash. Downy Mildew has developed resistance to key fungicides and finding new strategies to deal with the disease will be the focus of this Specialty Crop Block Grant,' said Greg Bird, Executive Director of the Michigan Vegetable Council.
'Specialty Crop Block Grants have allowed the Michigan Apple Committee to do important consumer awareness and marketing campaigns that encourage increased movement of Michigan Apples at retail. These grants are a significant part of our consumer education work - funds we leverage to get even more benefit from the grower dollars in our budget,' said Diane Smith, Executive Director of the Michigan Apple Committee. 'We remain focused on our mission of engaging in market development, consumer education, research and communications for the benefit of Michigan's apple growers. The Specialty Crop Block Grant program enables us to enhance our efforts to aid in the success and the sustainability of the Michigan Apple industry.'
Prior to 2008, farm bills focused largely on traditional commodity crops and had no section dedicated to fruits and vegetables. The 2018 Farm Bill continues to strengthen support for specialty crops and makes major investments in organic crops and local and regional food systems.
Grant recipients include: