BOISE — The Idaho State Department of Agriculture will award more than $1.5 million this year to 13 projects designed to improve the competitiveness of the state’s specialty crop industry.
But the application process for ISDA’s annual specialty crop block grant program was extremely competitive this year and 13 other proposals went unfunded, department officials said.
“This year’s grant applications were more competitive than ever before,” ISDA Director Celia Gould said in a news release. “While we didn’t have funding for every project, the ones that were selected represent some excellent activities that will have a significant impact on specialty crops in Idaho.”
Some of the proposals that weren’t selected for funding are excellent projects, said Eric Boyington, who manages the ISDA program.
“Unfortunately, it was so competitive this year that ... there are some really good projects in there that didn’t get funded,” he said.
Boyington said the ISDA executive team that made the final decision on which projects received funding placed a high value on what each proposal’s estimated economic impact would be.
“Sometimes that was the difference between two really good projects,” he said.
The ISDA received 26 proposals seeking a total of $2.8 million in funding. Both those totals are records for the program, not including 2014, which was an abnormal year.
That year, because the ISDA learned just before the application deadline that it would receive $3.64 million — almost twice as much funding as normal — it extended the deadline five weeks and received 38 applications.
Five of this year’s funded projects will benefit Idaho’s potato industry.
Those include a $199,000 grant to University of Idaho to develop an early warning system to detect foliar potato pathogens, $122,000 to Boise State University to create a quick and economical way to evaluate acrylamide content in fried potato products and $161,000 for Idaho State University to detect potato viruses using unmanned aircraft systems.
The Idaho Potato Commission received $116,000 to research the use of natural compounds as potato sprout inhibitors and nematicides and $107,000 to assist its international marketing and promotion efforts.
The Idaho Wine Commission received $138,000 to raise awareness of the industry through enhanced marketing and $72,000 to increase the knowledge of growers and winemakers by providing them with more educational opportunities.
The Idaho Bean Commission was awarded $55,000 for an effort to increase market share of Idaho dry beans in Latin America and $134,000 to create advanced yellow bean lines.
The Idaho Apple Commission received $163,000 to research the effects of thinning and rootstock in enhancing the profitability of Honeycrisp apples.
ISDA’s Idaho Preferred program was awarded $128,00 to buttress its efforts to market the state’s specialty crops.
The Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee received $72,000 for an effort to expand exports and create demand in international markets, and UI was awarded $109,00 to develop best management practices for controlling soil-borne diseases in onions.