Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jessica Ziehm

September 16, 2010

Commissioner Announces $1.1 Million in Grants for Specialty Crops

17 Projects Receive Federal Funds to Ensure Long-Term Viability of NY Fruits & Vegetables

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker today announced $1.1 million for 17 projects that will enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops in New York State.  Funded and approved by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Specialty Crop Block Grants help ensure long-term viability of specialty crops grown in New York State, which include fruits, vegetables, maple, honey and horticultural products.

            “As successful and diverse as New York’s agricultural industry is, it is not without challenges, nor opportunities for improvement,” the Commissioner said.  “We in New York are once again appreciative of the strong support we receive from our members of Congress in securing these specialty crop funds.  These federal funds have been instrumental in the past in addressing problems and implementing solutions that better our industry as a whole, and we expect this next round of projects to do the same.”

            The competitively awarded projects focus on two general categories that reflect input the Department received from industry stakeholders, which are research and grower education, and consumer outreach and market development.  A total of $600,000 was awarded for eight research and grower education projects; and $235,000 for four consumer outreach and market development projects.  In addition to those projects, the Department will be using $293,682 to implement five statewide initiatives that will positively influence all specialty crop commodities throughout the State.  A list of the awarded projects is attached.  

            A total of 42 applications requesting over $3.2 million were received by the Department for funding.  The awarded grants, which were competitively chosen, average $70,000 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.

            Federal funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program has increased dramatically for New York in recent years, from approximately $129,000 in 2006 to over $1.25 million today.  The Federal Farm Bill provides $55 million in funding each year for this program from 2010 through 2012, making New York eligible for a total of approximately $2.4 million over the next two years. Of that, the Department can use up to 10 percent of the funds for administrative and indirect costs.

            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 $1.39 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 pumpkins; third for grapes, cabbage, cauliflower and maple syrup; and fourth for tart cherries, pears, snap beans and onions.

            USDA’s announcement of the specialty crop funding can be found at

Listed in their respective category in the order as ranked through the competitive grant process.


$59,560 – Promoting New York State Specialty Crop Consumption through CSA Consumer Fairs (Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York): Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) provides consumers with an economical option to purchase healthy produce, while also directly supporting local farms.  This project will coordinate 18 promotional events over three years in eight regions of the State to educate consumers on how CSAs work and the benefits associated with them.

$46,069 – Adirondack Harvest “Small Farm Rising” PBS Education Project (Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County): Today’s consumers are bombarded with mixed messages about buying local and maximizing food safety.  This project will create an educational documentary and materials that will debunk stereotypes and show real life portraits of three farms. It and will be aired by nine New York Public Broadcasting Stations (PBS) stations and distributed nationally, reaching millions of consumers.

$40,070 – Maple Producers E-Business and Internet Marketing Project (New York State Maple Producers Association):  Consumers increasingly turn to the Internet to learn about and locate New York food products.  In addition to promoting the industry’s recent “Taste the Tradition” branding initiative, this project will expand the Maple Producers’ existing web presence by developing new tools and interactive approaches for sharing information with both producers and the public.

$89,301 – Increasing New York City’s Access to New York Specialty Crops by Strengthening the Wholesale Greenmarket (Grow NYC): Wholesale farmers’ markets in New York City have long played a critical role in supplying fresh local products to urban wholesalers and retailers. This project will strengthen New York City’s only market wholesaling solely local specialty crops by providing funds to hire expert staff to strategically grow the market’s supply and demand.


$99,836 – Breeding for Genetic Control of Defoliating Disease in Fresh Market Tomato Lines for New York State (Cornell University):  Tomatoes are a valuable crop in New York with an estimated fresh market annual value of $33 million. This project will reduce grower costs and the need to apply fungicide applications by improving the resistance of tomato varieties to three defoliating diseases that threaten crops every year, late blight, early blight and Septoria leaf spot.

$100,000 – Improving Fresh Market Vegetable Production and Profitability with Bumble Bees (Cornell University):  The European honey bee, an important pollinator of New York’s vegetable crops, continues to suffer population declines.  With fewer honey bees available and increasing hive rental costs for New York producers, this project will develop a research-based, decision-making guide for growers to use the common eastern bumble bee as an effective pollinator for their vegetable crops.

$100,000 – Reducing Losses from Bacterial Diseases of Onions in New York State (Cornell University):  New York ranks fourth in the nation for onion production with its sales valued at $67.6 million in 2009. This project will conduct research and develop new techniques and materials to better control two diseases, center rot and sour skin, that have recently caused considerable losses and concern to onion growers.

$91,456 – Using Naturally Evolved Biological Systems to Control Plant Diseases (Cornell University):  Powdery mildews are significant pathogens for a number of specialty crops in New York. Suppression of this disease often requires the use of fungicides and over time the mildews develop a resistance to their use. This project will examine natural defense mechanisms and adapt low-cost, low-energy, light-emitting diodes to develop alternative methods of disease suppression.

$67,650 – Increasing New York Hop Education and Production in New York State (Cornell Cooperative Extension of Madison County):  Over the past decade, there is increasing interest in New York beer, as well as interest in growing New York hops.  This project will train an extension educator to work with current and interested hop growers to elevate New York’s craft beer industry and increase the number of breweries utilizing locally grown and processed hops on a regular basis.

$57,010 – Improving Control of Fire Blight Shoot Infection of Apple Trees (Cornell University): Fire blight is a threat to New York apple growers, because almost all varieties, especially the newer, high-value varieties, are very susceptible to infection and can result in costly tree loss.  This project will identify effective control materials that can be used without undesirable side effects and develop an integrated set of recommendations that will be publicized to extension field staff.

$30,554 – Delivering Tools for Quantifying Sulfur Spray Residues to the Wine and Grape Industries (Cornell University): Wine grape growers routinely use elemental sulfur as a fungicide to control powdery mildew. However, during the winemaking process, sulfur residues on the grapes can result in undesirable aromas in the finished wine. This project will quantify sulfur residue persistence and provide guidelines and on-line materials to assist growers in managing sulfur applications.

$53,494 – Integrating Management Strategies of Leafroll Disease in Vineyards (Cornell University): Leafroll is a serious virus of grapevines that causes low vigor, reduced fruit yield and quality, delays in fruit ripening, and reduced soluble solids and increased acidity in juices. This project will educate growers about leafroll’s impact and promote integrated pest and disease management strategies based on a predictive model for virus spread and profitability estimates.


$208,682 – Good Agricultural Practices Education and Certification Assistance Program (New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets):  Foodborne outbreaks linked to produce have intensified both growers’ and consumers’ concerns about food safety.  This project will help address these concerns by providing training and financial support to growers and handlers regarding Good Agricultural Practices/Good Handling Practices (GAP/GHP), including the cost of third-party audits.

$45,000 – Pride of New York “Buy Local” Wholesale/Retail Promotion Program (New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets):  Sometimes produce managers lack the time or resources to source local produce.  This project will help them source local products, as well provide “buy local” marketing and promotion assistance. In addition, box stickers featuring the Pride of New York logo will be created to help farmers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers identify local produce.

$29,900 – Organic and Sustainable Fruit and Vegetable Storage Guide (New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets):  In order for organic growers to sell storage crops in the fall and winter months, USDA requires research-based storage treatments and methods.  With the Integrated Pest Management Program, this project will develop a manual that addresses critical storage issues, appropriate cleaning products, pest and disease control and other management considerations.

$10,262 – Education & Promotion of the Nutritional Benefits of New York’s Specialty Crops (New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets):  As part of the expanding “buy local” movement, schools are also presenting many new opportunities for New York farmers. This project will design, produce and distribute trading cards that food service directors, parents, teachers, school administrators and others can use to educate and inspire students to make healthy, local eating choices.

2010 Press Releases