Idaho gets twice as much for specialty crop grants
BOISE — The Idaho State Department of Agriculture will receive twice as much money from the federal government this year for its specialty crop block grant program.
The California, Oregon and Washington ag departments will also receive more money from the USDA’s specialty crop block grant program, which is designed to fund projects that benefit specialty crop growers.
The ISDA received 21 applications for specialty crop grants this year, five fewer than last year’s record 26, but the requests for funding totaled a record $2.16 million.
The ISDA received $991,000 in specialty crop grant funding from USDA last year but will receive $1.91 million this year.
“It is great news (because) we can fund more projects,” said Amanda Gibson, who administers the ISDA program.
Other states will also get more funding because the new farm bill allocates $66 million for the USDA program this year, up from $55 million last year.
The USDA also altered the formula it uses to determine how much money is doled out to each state.
The formula used to be based on total farm-gate receipts from each state’s specialty crop industries but it now includes total acreage as a factor, said Shannon Brubaker, the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s specialty crop block grant program coordinator.
That change in formula benefits state’s like Idaho that have a significant amount of specialty crop acreage, such as potatoes. Oregon’s large nursery industry, by contrast, has a much smaller footprint, Brubaker said.
That’s why Idaho’s percentage increase in specialty crop grant program funding is much larger than other states, such as Oregon, which will receive $1.95 million this year, up $400,000 from 2013.
Oregon funded 22 specialty crop projects last year.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture will receive $19.76 million in funding this year, up from $18 million last year.
California funded 64 grants last year.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture will get $4.26 million in funding this year, up almost $1 million from 2013, said Hector Castro, communications director for WSDA, which funded 23 projects last year.
The Idaho ag department awarded grants to 10 specialty crop projects last year but expects to be able to fund more in 2014.
The department received grant requests from a wide variety of specialty crop groups this year, including from the state’s potato, apple, wine grape, nursery, dry bean, berry, onion and pea and lentil industries.
About half of those requests were for research and half were for marketing projects, Gibson said. The ISDA expects to announce which grants are funded by the first week of June.
Much of Idaho’s funding comes to the state as a result of its potato industry, which rakes in more than $900 million in cash receipts and requests several grants each year.
The Idaho Potato Commission this year has requested a grant to boost its international marketing efforts and another one for research. The University of Idaho has also requested a grant for potato research.