Cantwell Applauds Grants to Support Specialty Crop Farmers in WA

$10 million awarded to WSU, WA state Agriculture Department

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded the announcement of $10 million in federal grants to Washington state to support specialty crops and farmers. The grants were awarded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Specialty Crop Research Initiative and the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. With Cantwell’s backing, the 2014 Farm Bill was the first to authorize a long-term commitment to specialty crop research.

The USDA announced that Washington State University was awarded $5.8 million under the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, including $2.7 million to develop tools for hop farmers to help make better informed decisions about pest management. Another WSU project will support enhancing research and analysis for fruit trees such as apple, pears, cherries, peaches and raspberries.

In addition, $4.2 million was awarded through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to 27 projects managed by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA). Those projects include research to better protect crops such as hops, cherries, applies, grapes, and potatoes from pests and viruses; improving soil health for raspberry growers;  increasing sales of Washington apples to Asia, and helping farmers get crops to grocers, restaurants, and local markets. WSDA is partnering on the projects with other organizations such as WSU, trade associations, and commodity commissions. A list of projects is available here.

“The state of Washington is a leader in tree fruit, vegetables, and small fruit crops like strawberries and raspberries,” Cantwell said. “These grants will help us do the research necessary to keep growing our agriculture economy and jobs. This research will allow Washington farmers to fight diseases and increase sales.”

About $118 million in specialty crop grants were awarded nationwide.

Cantwell has been a Congressional leader in fighting to increase investment in specialty crop research. The Farm Bill passed in February was the first to authorize a long-term commitment to the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and increased investment by more than 50 percent.

Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture, and nursery crops. The research program is designed specifically to support smaller crops that would otherwise compete for research funding against the giants of wheat, soybeans and corn.

Washington state grows more than 250 specialty crops and ranks number one in production in the nation for 10 commodities, including apples, red raspberries, sweet cherries, pears, and hops. Washington state’s agriculture industry employs 160,000 people and generates $40 billion for the Washington state economy.