By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- Missing in the Idaho State Department of Agriculture's June announcement that it would help fund 10 projects designed to benefit the state's specialty crop industries were the 16 projects that won't receive state funding.
Those projects fell victim to a highly competitive process that saw the department receive a record 26 applications for specialty crop grant funding this year. The projects requested a total of $2.2 million from the ISDA but only $892,000 was available in 2013.
Amanda Gibson, who oversees the ISDA's specialty crop grant program, said the proposals that weren't funded were high-quality projects that simply faced competition from what a panel of industry representatives determined were even better ones.
"It doesn't mean they were bad projects," she said. "We just had a lot of applications and requests for funding this year. It was a very competitive process."
Some of the projects, especially the larger ones, will continue, just at a slower pace. But others needed the funding to move forward.
While the Idaho Wine Commission received $40,000 to increase the exposure of the state's wine industry, the panel of judges opted not to fund a separate IWC request for $35,000 to conduct an economic impact study.
The last economic impact study in 2008 showed Idaho's wine industry had a $73 million impact on the state's economy but the industry has grown substantially since then, from 32 to 50 bonded wineries, said IWC Executive Director Moya Shatz-Dolsby.
The study is a high priority for the commission because it would help stakeholders better understand the industry's anticipated growth, "but it's pretty darn expensive and we don't have an extra $35,000 in our budget," said Shatz-Dolsby.
A request for grant money by the Idaho Mint Commission to help fund a drip irrigation trial being conducted by University of Idaho researchers failed but that project will continue, said IMC Chairman Tony Weitz.
"We just wanted to offset as many of the costs as possible so the mint commission could use the money on other projects," he said.
Panel judges also decided not to fund a request by the Idaho Potato Commission for grant money to help develop new potato varieties that can be produced more efficiently than existing ones.
That work will proceed because of its importance to the industry "but it doesn't go forward as quickly and efficiently as it otherwise would have," said Pat Kole the IPC's vice president of legal and government affairs.
Other requests that didn't receive funding include a project to look at the feasibility of growing alternative fruits in Idaho, one designed to enhance distribution channels for specialty crops in a 15-county area in southern Idaho and another to promote sustainable vineyard practices in the Pacific Northwest.
A project that aims to incorporate more pulse crops into the U.S. diet by developing healthy recipes for the foodservice industry was also not funded.