USDA funds 15 specialty crop projects totaling $2 million in Oregon

Date:
November 11, 2021
USDA funds 15 specialty crop projects totaling $2 million in Oregon

The Oregon Department of Agriculture has awarded grants for 15 projects totaling nearly $2 million to help farmers grow and market specialty crops.

The recipients were announced Nov. 3, including proposals to combat smoke taint in winegrapes; control the spread of wild carrot in seed production; establish a comprehensive hydroponic agriculture research and training program; and develop alternatives for the pesticide chlorpyrifos in orchards.

Funding comes from the USDA's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which recently allocated $169.9 million to the departments of agriculture in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. Of that total, $72.9 million came from the 2018 Farm Bill and $97 million from the Biden administration's COVID-19 stimulus bill.

"This historic level of funding will help the specialty crops industry recover from the effects of the pandemic," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, the total market value of Oregon specialty crops was $2.8 billion, which ranks fourth behind California, Washington and Florida.

Specialty crops are defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops.

Among the grant recipients in Oregon was Oregon State University, where researchers landed six awards. They include:

• Find viable alternatives for chlorpyrifos, a key pesticide commonly used in Christmas trees, hazelnuts and more than 50 other crops statewide. Oregon plans to phase out most uses of chlorpyrifos by the end of 2023.

• Training farmers to grow specialty Asian vegetables and medicinal herbs, and connecting them with potential buyers.

• Develop best irrigation practices for vineyards in all wine growing regions of the state.

• Build a demonstration and teaching facility for hydroponic agriculture at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center south of Portland.

• Study how to detect and contain the spread of wild carrot in farmed carrot seed crops in Central Oregon.

• Develop a novel food coating for winegrapes to stop the uptake of volatile smoke compounds from nearby wildfires, which can lead to negative aromas and flavors in wine.

ODA's Insect Pest Prevention and Management Program also received two grants — one to stop the spread of Gill's mealybug, an emerging agricultural pest in Oregon, and another to survey for invasive bees and wasps that pose a threat to honeybee colonies.

Chemeketa Community College in Salem won a grant to conduct dry farming trials, growing specialty crops without irrigation amid drought and increasingly scarce water supplies.

Other grants are geared toward generating consumer awareness and demand for specialty crops.

The Oregon Potato Commission and Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission received grants to market their products, and the nonprofit Umpqua Valley Farm to School Program will use its grant to plan field trips for students on farms and for schools to buy local seeds and crops.

ODA Director Alexis Taylor said this year's grant applications reflect the state's rich agricultural diversity.

"I sincerely thank all of the applicants for taking the time to apply, ensuring Oregon is well represented at the federal level for its meaningful and innovative specialty crop projects," Taylor said. "I look froward to following their progress and witnessing how the work is benefiting Oregon agriculture as a whole."

By GEORGE PLAVEN

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