Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jola Szubielski 518-457-0752
Dave Bullard 315-487-7711 x 1377

November 06, 2015

State Agriculture Commissioner Announces $1.2 Million to Assist Specialty Crop Farmers and Grow Their Businesses

Funds support research and grower education projects to boost competitiveness of New York farms and enhance long-term viability of agri-businesses

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today announced awards totaling $1.2 million for 10 projects to grow New York agriculture through research, protection and promotion of the state’s specialty crops, which rank highly in the nation in terms of both production and economic value.  Funding is provided through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and provides important assistance for research and grower education projects to boost competitiveness of New York farms and enhance long-term viability of agri-businesses.

Commissioner Ball said, “As a specialty crop farmer, I know how important these crops are.  These grants will help improve access to healthy food and help farmers solve difficult problems that will result in a safer and more efficient food supply.  Together, we’re tackling some of the most challenging issues in the state’s food supply and making remarkable progress.”

Specialty crops include a wide range of agricultural products, including fruits and vegetables, herbs, flowers, shrubs and commercially-grown trees. Six grants for research and grower education projects based at Cornell University will help provide innovative solutions for a number of critical pest, disease and other profitability challenges to help New York’s farmers improve their practices, enhance operations and remain competitive.

In addition, the Department of Agriculture and Markets will implement four statewide initiatives that will benefit a broad spectrum of specialty crop commodities by providing increased sales and marketing opportunities, and support economic development in local communities throughout the state.

Jim Bittner of Bittner-Singer Orchards and Chair of the New York Farm Viability Institute, said, “The New York Farm Viability Institute is honored to partner with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets on the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.  Our volunteer board and farmer review panels were excited about the quality of the proposals submitted and the smart ideas they contained.  Food lovers across the state are fortunate to have such passionate researchers and educators supporting New York’s farmers.”

Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, said, “Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is pleased to help meet the needs of today’s farmers and food innovators by providing quality and timely agricultural research and development for New York specialty crops growers.  These competitive grants are an excellent way to leverage New York’s commitment to the Land Grant mission at Cornell University, and will assist in providing environmentally responsible and accurate management tools to encourage economic growth and profitability for our state’s farmers.”

Funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help states improve the competitiveness of specialty crops.  The Department of Agriculture and Markets administered the program in cooperation with the New York Farm Viability Institute, which evaluated proposals in the areas of food safety, research and grower education, and marketing. 

The following six research and grower education projects based at Cornell University were awarded funding:

  • $105,568 to increase consumer demand for fresh, local vegetables year-round by supporting farmer entrepreneurs with the necessary business analysis tools to successfully enter the emerging field of controlled environment agriculture.
  • $51,916 to help growers reduce pesticides by 30 to 40 percent and improve growers’ profitability by offering a series of one-day, in-depth training courses on state-of-the-art spray application techniques.
  • $112,149 to evaluate management strategies of leafroll viruses and develop a comprehensive, integrated pest management (IPM) program to be disseminated to the local grape community to increase the overall quality of production and vineyard profitability.
  • $111,561 to find better ways to fight the damaging Cercospora leaf spot disease, which affects beets.  New York is the nation’s second largest producer of table beets for the fresh and processing markets, and demand is likely to continue to rise with the opening later this year of Love Beets USA, LLC’s new beet processing and packaging plant in Rochester.  Efforts will include research to find a more effective fungicide, as well as developing optimum methods for rotating crops and disease and weed management strategies;
  • $108,977 to reduce the impact of leaf mold in tomatoes produced in high tunnels (covered structures where tomatoes grow horizontally on tall trellises.)
  • $109, 829 to help New York apple growers adopt precision management techniques to reduce loss and ensure that a higher percentage of Honeycrisp apples meet the quality criteria necessary for the fresh market. Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Lake Ontario Fruit Program will coordinate this project.

The following four promotion and marketing projects were awarded funding:

  • $280,000 to educate consumers about the many environmental, economic, and health benefits of specialty crop consumption.
  • $100,000 to increase the capacity of schools to procure and serve locally-produced specialty crops and help schools in carrying out their farm-to-school plans and initiatives.
  • $90,000 to assist specialty crop industry groups in providing information, raising awareness and promoting the state’s specialty crops to buyers and sales leads at the New York Produce Show in New York City.
  • $58,241 to assist consumers and commercial buyers to more easily search for and locate sources of specialty crop products by expanding the Pride of New York database and its functionality.

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