Published online: Oct 26, 2011 Seed Potatoes
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HARRISBURG, Pa.-Seventeen Pennsylvania projects were recently awarded $1,043,305 in federal grants to increase the visibility and market share of the state's produce, nursery, horticultural and nut products, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced today.

"Agriculture plays a significant role in the state's economy, with specialty crops contributing more than $1 billion in sales each year," said Agriculture Secretary George Greig. "By investing in the specialty crop industry, we can make these healthy, affordable products more accessible to consumers and more profitable for producers."

The federal grants are part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which was authorized under the federal Farm Bill.

The 17 funded projects address a range of priorities in the agriculture industry, including food safety, marketing, nutrition and sustainability.

Grant recipients were selected by a state-appointed specialty crop advisory board and approved by the state agriculture secretary. Applications were then collectively submitted for approval to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service.

The grant recipients are as follows:

American Mushroom Institute: $90,000 for grower food safety education and training;
Fair Food: $30,000 for nutrition education in Philadelphia public schools;
Fay-Penn Economic Development Council: $20,000 to promote and improve access to locally grown fruits and vegetables;
Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Board: $40,000 to promote Pennsylvania apples;
Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture: $35,000 to develop and implement a Northeast Pennsylvania "Food Hub;"
Pennsylvania Co-Operative Potato Growers: $40,000 to develop and promote a Pennsylvania potato brand;
Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program: $25,000 to promote Pennsylvania produce;
Pennsylvania Wine Association: $45,000 to continue the development of the Pennsylvania Wine Quality Initiative and provide training to industry members to improve the overall quality of wine produced.

In addition, The Pennsylvania State University received four grants for the following initiatives:

$92,000 to improve the detection and management of major pathogens that cause tomato, pepper, chrysanthemum and ornamental plant disease;
$53,579 to evaluate food-safety risks associated with the use of surface water used for irrigation of specialty crops and accuracy of procedures farmers use to test water;
$25,000 to help eliminate Philadelphia "food deserts"-places where healthy, affordable food is difficult to find-by constructing high tunnels and providing hands-on training to produce vegetable crops; and
$52,646 to train conifer growers in pest-management techniques that reduce pesticide use.

Nearly $500,000 was awarded to the state Agriculture Department's bureaus of food distribution, food safety, market development and plant industry. The grants will allow these bureaus to promote best agricultural practices, continue outreach and educational support of Good Agricultural Practices, support the PA Preferred branding program and ensure the health of Pennsylvania's tree fruit industry.

In total, the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded 55 block grants totaling $55 million for 740 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

For a complete summary of grants, visit

SOURCE: Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture