Specialty crop growers and industry professionals are passionate about programs that provide funding for specialty crop research. Many people stressed the importance of such research during the farm bill listening session that occurred in Gainesville, Florida, on June 24.
“Research is crucial in order for growers to provide a safe food supply,” said Danny Johns, a Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association representative, as he praised specialty crop block grants.
Sonia Tighe, executive director of the Florida Specialty Crop Foundation, is an advocate for specialty crop block grants as well. Tighe recently completed the first year of a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to market Florida peaches. Tighe says without that funding, it would not have been possible.
Marketing is an important facet of the specialty crop block grants. During Tighe’s study, she learned that both produce buyers and consumers did not realize that Florida peaches existed. “Block grants are incredibly critical to expanding the marketing and promotion reach of our specialty crops,” she says.
Tighe realizes that the specialty crop block grants can go beyond marketing and promotion. Pest and disease research is another crucial aspect of the specialty crop industry. “Overall, specialty crop block grants are a very important tool,” she says.
Specialty crop research will continue to increase in importance as more growers seek out specialty crops to add to their production systems.
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