New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker today announced that New York will be the recipient of approximately $1 million in federal Specialty Crop Block Grant funds. Included in the 2008 federal Farm Bill, these funds are designated to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, which includes fruits, vegetables, maple and honey and horticulture crops.
“Unlike states in the midwest that focus on only a handful of crops, New York produces a wide variety of commodities and is a major contributor to many of the fresh fruits and vegetables available for consumers,” the Commissioner said. “Specialty crops are incredibly valuable to our economy, but also allow us to offer our consumers healthy and delicious options for a diverse and nutritious diet, a priority for Governor Paterson.”
“We are extremely pleased to be receiving this funding and thank our Congressional delegation for securing our share of these monies. We will be working diligently in the upcoming days to listen to the industry’s needs and devise a program that will distribute the funds in a fair and swift manner.”
Although USDA has not announced available funding for the 2009 Specialty Crop Block Grant program, the Department projects that New York will be eligible for approximately $1 million. In anticipation of this funding, the Department is encouraging all interested stakeholders to submit their comments in writing as to the allocation of funds that will enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops in New York State. Comments will help the Department identify and prioritize the industry’s needs as it relates to the development of a competitive grant program. Written comments will be accepted until June 8, 2009 and may be submitted to email@example.com or faxed to 518-457-2716, attention Specialty Crop Comments.
In addition, the Commissioner will assemble a Specialty Crop Block Grant Advisory Committee, which will include a diverse mix of industry leaders and representatives. The Committee will review submitted comments and provide guidance regarding the implementation of a competitive grant program.
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, cabbage and maple syrup; third for grapes and cauliflower; and fourth for tart cherries, pear, snap beans and sweet corn.