Oregon receives grants to boost specialty crops
By Eric Mortenson
Twenty-two Oregon agriculture projects and programs will share $1.5 million in federal block grants intended to strengthen the state’s specialty crops.
The USDA and Oregon Department of Agriculture announced the annual grant awards this week. State ag department spokesman Bruce Pokarney said the money will boost the competitiveness of Oregon’s fruit, vegetables, nuts, nursery crops and other specialty crops. Oregon received $1.49 million in specialty crop block grants last year.
The grants are significant in Oregon because the state is not known for producing enormous quantities of federally subsidized commodities such as corn and soybeans. Instead, Oregon farmers find crop niches — grass seed, hazelnuts and blueberries, for example — and successfully market high-quality products. Oregon ranks fifth nationally in the production of specialty crops and has received more than $7 million in block grants in the past six years.
In applying for grants this year, the ODA identified seven funding priorities. They include projects related to food safety, market development and access, distribution system efficiency, pest and disease management, farm labor, training and equipping the next generation of farmers, and productivity enhancement and innovation.
The Oregon Association of Nurseries, for example, was awarded a $90,250 grant to carry out a “Plant Something” campaign on electronic and social media. The intent is to encourage people, especially novice gardeners, to buy plants. The campaign will promote landscape and garden plantings as a healthy way to increase home value and improve the environment.