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Texas Department of Agriculture Awards $1.8 Million to Improve Production of Fruits, Vegetables And Specialty Crops (12/18/2015)

AUSTIN - Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller today announced the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) has awarded more than $1.8 million in federal funding to 15 specialty crop projects across the state. Administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service, the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program helps enhance markets for specialty crops like fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery crops. These grants also help promote the horticulture and floriculture industries.

“Texas is a leader in the production of many specialty crops, including citrus, onions, watermelons, pecans and grapes,” Commissioner Miller said. “This round of specialty crop funding will support these growing segments of the Texas agriculture industry and producers across the state through research and promotional activities. The more support we give our Texas farmers, the more we can enjoy locally grown, fresh products.”

The Agricultural Act of 2014 authorized USDA to help states enhance specialty crop competitiveness. This round of grant funds will support projects between Dec. 1, 2015 and March 31, 2017. Grant recipients were chosen through a competitive application process administered by TDA. The selected projects specialize in several key areas, including improved food safety, increased development of the specialty crops industry, increased marketing and promotion of Texas-grown produce, increased promotion and consumer awareness of the nutritional benefits of produce consumption, and increased protection of Texas specialty crops from plant pests and diseases.

The latest round of federal specialty crop funds will support the following initiatives:

  • -The Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association will work to increase grape production in the Lone Star State by providing three regional educational and outreach workshops about vineyard soil management. The goal is to attract new producers and expand the capacity of experienced producers.
  • -Texas AgriLife Research and H-E-B will help increase the supply and availability of nutritious, great-tasting Texas-grown tomatoes for retail marketers and consumers. Additionally, the drought tolerance and water use efficiency of tomato lines from the Texas Tomato Breeding Program will be evaluated. Partners will determine how drought stress impacts nutritional quality, taste and susceptibility to insect pests and diseases. Lastly, these partners will work to increase public awareness about the flavor and nutritional benefits of locally grown Texas tomatoes.
  • -The Texas Pecan Growers Association will work to create new markets for Texas pecans by showcasing the Texas pecan industry and availability of high-quality products at the Produce Marketing Association’s 2016 Fresh Summit. The summit is considered the leading trade show in the country spotlighting fresh produce.
  • -The Texas Pecan Growers Association will work to reduce pecan losses as a result of cotton root rot and inform growers of early disease ratings among entries.
  • -The Texas Citrus Pest and Disease Management Corporation will work to decrease the spread of citrus greening disease or Huanglongbing (HLB) by hiring an area-wide consultant to be an industry source for sustainable early detection using intensified surveys of infected groves and other un-surveyed groves within proximity to these new finds.

For more information about the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and to view a complete list of funded projects, click here. You also can visit www.TexasAgriculture.gov and click on the “Grants & Services” tab.