RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced an award of $481,410.50 in grant funding for 10 agriculture-related projects from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The grants will promote and enhance the competitiveness of Virginia’s specialty crops and create more economic development opportunities across the Commonwealth. The project awards resulted from a competitive grant process established by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) for the USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant funds.

“As one of our largest private industries, agriculture plays a key role in supporting our efforts to build a new Virginia economy and create jobs in every corner of the commonwealth,” said Governor McAuliffe. “Virginia’s agricultural industry depends on 21st century-based research and data to remain competitive in the global economy. These funds will provide necessary support for research in food safety to ensure that Virginia maintains a safe and wholesome food supply.”

“Today’s announcement is good news for Virginia agriculture and will help maintain its status as a leading industry in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Basil Gooden. “These projects illustrate Virginia’s diversified agricultural interests across the state and will result in research that combats pests, increases yields per acre and otherwise helps our growers farm more efficiently and effectively.”

Specialty crops including broccoli and other brassicas, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet corn, honey, tree fruits, melons, strawberries and more will benefit from the grants. Several projects will help produce farmers comply with new federal and state laws ensuring produce safety.

The Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004 authorizes the USDA to provide funds to the states to promote crops including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery products.  When considering grants for the USDA Specialty Crop Program, VDACS gave priority to projects that included the following activities: Assisting farmers transitioning into specialty, high-value agricultural initiatives that address the eligible specialty crops; increasing net farm income through high-value or value-added enterprises; finding new ways to market or add value to specialty agricultural products; and/or developing pilot and demonstration programs in specialty agriculture that have the potential for transferability within rural Virginia.

Grants averaged about $48,000 per applicant. VDACS awarded grants totaling $481,410 to the following recipients and projects:

  • Protecting Virginia Broccoli and other Brassicas from Alternaria Diseases, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University – Steve Rideout, Va. Tech’s Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Extension Center (ESAREC), Painter
  • Sulfur Fertility Rates for Virginia Vegetables to Enhance Yields and Increase Fertilizer Use Efficiency – Mark S. Reiter, ESAREC, Painter
  • Making Food Safety Certification and FSMA Compliance Attainable for Virginia Farmers – Kathlyn Terry, Appalachian Sustainable Development, Abingdon
  • Risk of Pathogen Infiltration in Specialty Crops During Submersion in Water: Establishing FSMA Safe Harbors Laura Strawn, Va. Tech, Eastern Shore AREC
  • Disease Inhibition in Strawberry Using Biological ControlsChuansheng Mei, Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, Danville
  • Improving Potato Quality with Calcium: Role in Bruising and Internal Disorders, Ramón A. Arancibia, Va. Tech’s Eastern Shore AREC
  • Assessing Pathogenic Disease in Bees and Flowers on Strawberry Farms in Virginia,  Lisa Horth, Old Dominion Research Foundation, Norfolk
  • Alternative Fertilizer Recommendations that Support Helper Soil Microbial Communities in High-Density Apple Orchards – Mark A. Williams, Va. Tech, Blacksburg
  • Releasing Trissolcus Japonicus to Promote Biological Control of Brown Marmorated Stink Bug in VirginiaChristopher Bergh, Va. Tech AREC, Winchester
  • Enhancing Quality and Marketing of Honey and Products of the HiveGeorge H. Wilson, III, The ApiSolutions Consortium, Gainesville

For more information on specialty crops in Virginia, contact VDACS’ Division of Marketing and Development at (804) 786-3530.