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USDA fuels specialty crop competitiveness


Nearly $1 million awarded to fund research, marketing of Idaho products


By SEAN ELLIS


Capital Press


BOISE -- Eight projects designed to enhance the competitiveness of various specialty crops in Idaho have been selected to receive a total of $926,000 in grant funding.


The money, available through a U.S. Department of Agriculture specialty crop block grant program, is being distributed through the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.


The ISDA chose eight projects to receive funding following a competitive grant process that attracted 16 applications totaling $1.6 million in requests. The applications were reviewed and chosen by a panel of industry representatives, who selected research and promotional projects for the state's potato, dry bean, grape, apple and nursery industries.


Specialty crops include fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. Eligible projects were required to benefit more than one organization.


A $122,000 grant to the Idaho Bean Commission will be used to help University of Idaho and Oregon State University researchers develop a virus-resistant yellow bean seed for export to Mexico as well as domestic sale.


IBC Administrator Diana Caldwell said yellow beans are the most desirable bean in Mexico and command the highest market price in that country.


"If we can break into that market, we can develop another (market) for Idaho growers and dealers," she said.


The Idaho Nursery and Landscape Association will use a $20,000 specialty crop grant to develop its "Plant Something" campaign.


INLA Executive Director Ann Bates said the campaign is designed after a successful one in Arizona that several Western states are trying to turn into a regional marketing slogan. It will include catchy phrases such as, "Plant two of these and call us in the morning," and, "Don't just stand there; plant something."


"We're hoping it catches on like the 'Got Milk' campaign did," Bates said.


The Idaho Apple Commission received a $104,000 grant that will enable University of Idaho researchers to continue their efforts to develop high-density orchards that result in increased apple production.


The Idaho Potato Commission received a $256,000 grant to develop and sustain production of new potato varieties for Idaho growers, and a $104,000 grant to develop international markets for Idaho potatoes.


A $151,000 grant was awarded to the University of Idaho to help fund research to eradicate necrotic strains of potato virus Y in Idaho.


The ISDA's Idaho Preferred program received a $105,000 grant to promote specialty crops through advertising and channel marketing.


A $62,000 grant to the USDA's Agricultural Research Service will be used to help prepare Idaho's grape industry for climate change by studying the cold hardiness of various grape cultivars in response to weather events during dormancy.


The ISDA expects to receive additional funding for the USDA program during 2012. For more information about the grant program, contact Lacey Menasco at 208-332-8538 or lacey.menasco@agri.idaho.gov



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