New York Dept. of Agriculture awards US$1M of USDA grant to nine projects aimed at growing state's agricultural economy, enhance competitiveness of specialty crops

ALBANY, New York , October 7, 2011 (press release) – New York State Agriculture Commissioner Darrel J. Aubertine, today, announced $1 million for 9 projects that will enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops in New York. Specialty crops include fruit, vegetables, maple, honey, horticulture and nursery/landscape. The Specialty Crop Block Grants are funded and approved by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

"Agriculture is one of our most important economic sectors. These grants help us improve and grow our agricultural economy," said Aubertine. "We appreciate the support we have received from our members of Congress in obtaining these funds. These grants will better the industry as a whole and make New York crops more competitive."

The competitively awarded projects reflect input the Department received from industry stakeholders about priorities and needs related to research and grower education as well as consumer outreach and market development. A total of $506,652 was awarded for 7 research and grower education projects. In addition to those projects, the Department will be using $447,423.69 to implement two statewide consumer outreach and market development projects that will positively influence all specialty crop commodities throughout the State. A list of the awarded projects follows.

A total of 31 applications requesting over S2.2 million were received by the Department for funding. The awarded grants, which were competitively chosen, average $72,000 each and do not require matching funds.

The Specialty Crop Block Grants were available to not-for-profit organizations, government entities and educational institutions. Projects were required to benefit a commodity or the industry as a whole and could not benefit a particular commercial product or profit to a single individual or entity. A committee made up of 17 industry representatives with expertise in a wide range of subject areas was assembled to provide technical review and comments for proposals received. The committee and the Department strongly considered the project's impact on the industry and ability to achieve measurable results in the review and ranking process. USDA gave the final approval to fund the chosen projects.

New York State produces a wide range of specialty crops that include fruits and vegetables, wine, maple syrup, horticulture and nursery crops. Specialty crops generate $1.34 billion annually in New York and make up one-third of the state's total agricultural receipts. They also rank high nationally in both production and economic value. For example, New York is the second largest state in the nation for apples and maple syrup; third for pumpkins, grapes, cabbage, cauliflower; and fourth for tart cherries, pears, snap beans and onions.

USDA's announcement of the specialty crop funding can be found here.

2011 SPECIALTY CROP BLOCK GRANT PROGRAM RECIPIENTS

Listed in the order as ranked through the competitive grant process.

$71, 503 - Improving Management and Profitability of Sweet Corn Through Enhanced Insect Control (Cornell University)

Sweet corn is the most widely grown and valuable vegetable crop in New York, valued at $80.1 million in 2010. This project will examine the resistance of European corn borer, corn earworm, and fall armyworm to pyrethroids and will also test insecticides against the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, a newly invasive pest of sweet corn in states adjacent to New York and recently detected on Long Island and the Hudson Valley.

$69,122 - Diagnostic Services for Monitoring & Managing Recent Outbreak of Bloat Nematode on Garlic in New York State (Cornell University)

In 2010, an outbreak of the stem and bulb (Bloat) nematode occurred on garlic throughout New York that resulted in significant yield and profitability losses. This project will offer New York's garlic growers a nematode analysis service, which will be critical to controlling, managing and documenting the spread of this costly pathogen.

$79,998 - Managing Japanese Beetle in eastern Vineyards by Reducing Grub Populations in Sod Row Middles with Persistent Entomopathogenic Nematodes (Cornell University)

Grapes are the second largest fruit crop in New York. Japanese beetles cause significant defoliation of grapevines resulting in multiple applications of insecticides. This project develops the use of persistent Entomopathogenic (insect-attacking) nematodes to manage foliar feeding damage by adult Japanese beetles in vineyards, thereby increasing profits and minimizing potential environmental impacts.

$77,200 - Biological Control of Plum Curculio in Organic Apple Production Systems (Cornell University)

Plum curculio is the single greatest insect pest challenge for organic apple production. This project will evaluate the potential of New York cold adapted entomopathogenic (insect-attacking) nematodes to reduce the impact of plum curculio on organic apple production, reduce the cost of organic apple production, provide a higher degree of marketable fruit and a higher profit for the organic apple producer.

$78,897 - Developing a Monitoring, Scouting & Damage Assessment Tool to Assess the Spread and Impact of the Invasive Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Cornell University)

The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is a native of Asia and an invasive insect in both urban and agricultural landscapes. Confirmed in 33 states, including New York, its dramatic population explosions in 2010 devastated agricultural commodities throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, resulting in $37 million in losses to tree fruit alone. This project will employ GIS-based mapping architecture to effectively coordinate and display information important for pest management decision making.

$80,000 - Predicting Chemical Thinning of Apple to Maximize Crop Value of Apple Orchards (Cornell University)

One of the most critical apple production problems is to predictably reduce the crop load per tree so that each tree achieves the optimum number of apples and fruit size, which in turn maximizes market value. This project will help growers predict chemical thinning responses by using a carbohydrate supply/demand model, which utilizes weather data to predict the trees carbohydrate status and thus susceptibility to chemical thinner action. If this project helps half of the apple growers in the state consistently achieve the optimum fruit size on 25,000 acres of apples it will have a potential economic impact of $100-175 million annually.

$49,932 - Testing Budwood for Latent Fire Blight Bacteria Threatening Nursery Trees and New Plantings (Cornell University)

Apple production in New York is valued at over $200 million annually. New apple plantings in New York suffer up to 80% tree loss from fire blight. If fire blight is spread through nursery stock, the original source of bacteria may be budwood collected from infected mother trees, as reported from Washington State. This project will investigate the phenomenon of bud-transmitted fire blight, and then establish protocols for preventing it.

STATEWIDE INITIATIVES AFFECTING ALL COMMODITIES

$349,169.27 - Expanding Consumer Awareness and Institutional Purchasing Capacity of New York Food and Farms (Department of Agriculture & Markets)

Retailers, wholesalers, distributors, restaurants, schools, institutions and the public are seeking a wide range of local farm products in varying quantities and geographic locations. This project will assist consumers and small-scale commercial buyers in easily searching for and locating sources of food and specialty crop agricultural products grown in New York State, through a comprehensive on-line directory of producers and value-added processors.

$98,254.42 - Enhancing the Marketing & Promotion of Regional "Buy Local" Campaigns (Department of Agriculture & Markets)

As the buy local market has grown and consumers have become more educated about the benefits of buying local, many are seeking products that are produced as nearby as possible. This project will build the capacity of regional organizations to increase the sales of producers by developing regional brands and functionally integrating regional efforts on a statewide basis. The project will provide financial resources to regions to purchase media time, including radio, television, on-line banners, print advertising, etc.

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