Gov. McAuliffe Announces New Specialty Crop Grants for Virginia, VSU Receives 2

By Brian Coy, Office of the Governor

Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced more than $503,000 in grant funding for fifteen agriculture-related projects.The grant funding will promote and enhance the competitiveness of Virginia’s specialty crops and create more economic development opportunities across the Commonwealth.  The project awards resulted from a competitive grant process established by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) for United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service Specialty Crop Block Grant funds. 

“Like any industry, agriculture depends on quality research and data to remain competitive in a 21st Century economy,” said Governor McAuliffe. “These grants represent more than a half-million dollar investment in Virginia’s economy that will boost economic development and create jobs in our agriculture sector, furthering our work to build a new Virginia economy. I congratulate these organizations and educational institutions for pursuing innovative research that will help enhance marketing opportunities and food safety for growers across the Commonwealth.” 

“Today’s announcement is good news for Virginia agriculture and helps bolster the Governor’s efforts to keep the industry at the forefront of his overall economic development strategic plan,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore.  “These projects, including several impacting our fast growing craft beverage sector, highlight Virginia’s diversified agricultural interests and the potential opportunities for future economic development those interests provide across a board geographic footprint.” 

The Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004 authorized the USDA to provide funds to the states to promote specialty crops including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery crops.  When considering grants for the USDA Specialty Crop Program, VDACS gave priority to projects that included the following activities: 

  • Assisting farmers transitioning into specialty, high-value agricultural initiatives that address the eligible specialty crops;
  • Increasing net farm income through high-value or value-added enterprises;
  • Finding new ways to market or add value to specialty agricultural products; and
  • Developing pilot and demonstration programs in specialty agriculture that have the potential for transferability within rural Virginia. 

Specialty crops including apples, berries, herbs, hops, nursery products, pears, wine grapes, and more will benefit from the grants.  Other grants focus on food safety, training, marketing, pollinators, and plant diseases or on production research for specific geographical areas.  Grants range from $12,000 to $45,300 per applicant.  VDACS awarded grants totaling $503,828 to the following recipients and projects: 

  • Facilitating Coriander and Fenugreek Production in Virginia – Virginia State University, Ettrick
  • Increasing Yield of Virginia-grown Hops (Humulus lupulus L.): Nutrient Management and Selection for Disease Resistance – Virginia State University, Ettrick
  • Balancing Microbial Safety and Disease Management of Virginia Fresh Herbs – Virginia Tech, Eastern Shore of Virginia AREC, Painter
  • Bringing New Technology to Southwest Virginia Apple Producers: Establishing a High Density Demonstration Orchard – Virginia Tech, Southwest Virginia AREC, Abingdon
  • Developing Markets and Processing Capacity for Specialty Crop Seconds and Value Added Products – Appalachian Sustainable Development, Abingdon
  • Enhancing the Food Safety and Quality of Virginia Grown Cucurbits – Virginia Tech, Eastern Shore of Virginia AREC, Painter
  • Establishment of Green Tea Production in Northern Virginia – Virginia Tech, Winchester AREC, Winchester
  • Establishment of The Vine to Wine Co-op to Reduce Overall Grape and Wine Production Costs and Enhance the Competitiveness of the Virginia Wine Industry – Virginia Wineries Association Cooperative, Richmond
  • Evaluating Foliar Nutrients Effects on Fruit Quality and Yield of Two New Blackberry Cultivars – Virginia Tech, Hampton Roads AREC, Virginia Beach
  • Injury Potential from 2,4-D and Dicamba Spray and Vapor Drift onto Vegetable and Nursery Crops – Virginia Tech, Hampton Roads AREC, Virginia Beach
  • Integrated Peer-to-Peer Training and Community Outreach to Improve Growing, Marketing and Consumption of Specialty Crops on Virginia’s Eastern Shore –  Eastern Shore Resource Conservation and Development Council, Painter
  • Making Food Safety Accessible and Affordable for Virginia Farmers – Appalachian Sustainable Development, Abingdon
  • Strengthen and Develop Asian Pear Market in Virginia – Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, Danville
  • Sustainable Development of Native Mason Bee Populations for Berry Pollination – Old Dominion University Research Foundation, Norfolk
  • Understanding Species Complex and Infection Process of Anthracnose and Ripe Rot Pathogens – Virginia Tech, Winchester AREC, Winchester 

For more information on specialty crops in Virginia, contact VDACS’ Division of Marketing and Development at 804.786.3530.