Senator announces more than $4 million for Michigan fruit and vegetable growers

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, on Tuesday announced that Michigan will receive over $4 million in federal funding to support Michigan specialty crop growers who produce fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, hops, nursery plants, and flowers.

“Michigan leads the nation in the production of many fruits and vegetables and is second in diversity of our crops only to California.  Our fruits, vegetables and nursery crops are not only a source of great pride – they are critical to our state’s economy.” said Stabenow. “This new support is a big win for Michigan agriculture.  It will help our farmers keep their competitive edge and continue to provide healthy fruits and vegetables to American families.”

“I appreciate USDA’s?commitment to?investing in?Michigan’s?robust?food and agriculture sector,” said Michigan Governor?Gretchen Whitmer. “These grants are a win-win for our farmers, producers, distributors and consumers as we look to increase access to Pure Michigan food and agriculture. I appreciate the USDA and Senator Stabenow’s leadership to secure this critical funding in support of Michigan’s vibrant specialty crop industry.” 

“The programs supported by these federal grants helps strengthen local and statewide distribution channels giving Michigan’s specialty crop farmers access to more markets supporting the Governor’s New Michigan Economy plan,” said Gary McDowell, director, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “The grants focus on marketing, training, certifications, food safety, pest control, and plant health for specialty crops, including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, plants and/or flowers. Additionally, this funding enhances the competitiveness of the state’s specialty crops.”

“Michigan asparagus growers were reminded again this year of the positive impact the Farm Bill’s Specialty Crop Block Grants can have on their bottom line. Outcomes from these research grants will expand the management practice toolbox enabling yield increases, lengthening asparagus stand longevity and supporting data driven decisions,” said Jamie Clover Adams, executive director of Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board.

“The USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant program is an integral part of the Michigan Potato Industry Commission’s (MPIC) mission to help promote Michigan Potatoes and also further fund the Commission’s ongoing efforts into potato research. MPIC relies on this generous funding to help further an economically viable potato industry in Michigan. In recent years we have utilized USDA SCBG funding in a number of marketing efforts reaching thousands of consumers and grow new audiences. We could not accomplish these marketing efforts without the available funding provided by USDA. In addition, the Specialty Crop Block Grant program has also helped fund cutting edge research by Michigan State University scientists into Potato Early Die disease, potato breeding, and research into invasive weeds that directly impacts our farmers’ ability to grow the highest quality potatoes possible. In thanks to the USDA, these programs have helped the Michigan Potato Industry Commission tremendously and we look forward to more successful Specialty Crop Block Grant programs in the future,” said Kelly Turner, executive director of Michigan Potatoes.

“Michigan is so very diverse in the vegetables we grow.  The Specialty Crop Block Grants are the most important slice of the Farm Bill to Michigan’s vegetable industry.  These grants are flexible and can be used in a multitude of ways.  The industry can get a Specialty Crop Block Grant submitted in the spring and start receiving funds in the fall.  The funds are used to research and improve many aspects of the vegetable system we have here in our state,” said Greg Bird, executive director of Michigan Vegetable Council.

“USDA’s investment in Michigan’s dry bean industry through SCBGs continue to help the bottom line of our dry bean growers.  Continuous improvement in genetics, disease management, etc. helped growers realize record yields this year in many parts of the production area.  We are certainly grateful for this program and appreciate the continued support for our industry,” said Joe Cramer, executive director Michigan Bean Commission.

MBG Marketing and its member-owners are very appreciative of the financial support from the USDA and MDARD as we continue with research and development efforts to improve production yields and fruit quality to remain competitive in a global marketplace,” Brad Moorer, CFO of Michigan Blueberry Growers Association.

“The Michigan State Horticultural Society greatly values the Specialty Crop Block Grant program.  These funds provide opportunity to conduct fruit industry research that otherwise would not be affordable. An important aspect of doing the research is getting the results out to the ag community. The SCBG program allows funding for extension programs which help speed the adoption of the research findings. The SCBG program is a wonderful continuation of industry and government partnering to improve fruit growing in Michigan,” said Ben Smith, executive secretary of Michigan State Horticultural Society.

“Michigan produces about 75% of the total U.S. supply of tart cherries. We are very excited that the Michigan Cherry Committee’s 2021 SCBG Application “Branding Montmorency Tart Cherries with a Geographical Indication (GI): Legal and Consumer Research and Development” was awarded funding. This will provide the cherry industry a registered GI branding logo that can be used to identify and market Michigan Montmorency tart cherries both domestically and abroad. These funds leveraged with grower assessments provide an opportunity to expand our mission to showcase, validate and market Michigan Montmorency tart cherries on a global platform.  This partnership opportunity with the USDA and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is a tremendous asset for cherry growers,” said Julie Gordon, executive director of Michigan Cherry Committee.

Prior to 2008, the federal Farm Bill focused mostly on traditional commodity crops and had no section dedicated to fruits and vegetables. In 2008, Stabenow changed that by authoring the first-ever fruits and vegetables section of a Farm Bill to provide support for specialty crops. Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, hops, nursery products and floriculture which are so important to Michigan’s economy. Stabenow has leveraged her position as chair of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee in subsequent Farm Bills to strengthen support for these crops and make major investments in organic crops and local and regional food systems.

The 18 Michigan projects announced Tuesday are made possible by $1,955,693 million secured by Stabenow in the Farm Bill.  The program is administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.  The funds will help growers sell more products, protect crops from pests and diseases, and market products to boost competitiveness.

Michigan also received an additional $2,587,724 for specialty crops growers which Stabenow secured in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The projects receiving this additional assistance will be announced later this month.

The 18 grant recipients include:

• MDARD International Marketing Program – International and Domestic Promotion of Michigan Specialty Crops, $168,591

• Michigan Bean Commission – Identification of Improved Dry Bean Varieties, Maturities, and Integrated Weed Management Systems: Managing Production for an Evolving Market Place, $100,000

• Michigan Vegetable Council – Getting to the Root of the Problem: Increasing Vegetable Plant Establishment and Productivity, $90,591

• Michigan Carrot Industry Development Program – Advancing Weed Management in Michigan Carrots through Novel Cultural, Electrical, and Physical Approaches, $98,525

• Michigan Bean Commission – Enhanced Strategies to Communicate the Value of Michigan Dry Beans:  Conventional and Digital Educational Programs to Increase Bean Consumption for Today’s Health-Conscious Consumers, $124,400

• Michigan State Horticultural Society – Improving Grape Berry Moth Management in Michigan Vineyards, $99,979

• Michigan Craft Beverage Council – Specialty Crop Grower Directory for the Michigan Craft Beverage Industry, $45,662

• Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association – New Herbicides and New Uses for MI Nursery Shrub Containers, $91,555

• Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board – Increasing the Productivity of Michigan Asparagus Through Sustainable Disease Management Tactics, $86,950

• Michigan Vegetable Council – Advancing Agbot and Drone Technologies for Sustainable Soil and Weed Management in Michigan Vegetables, $99,891

• Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board – Taking Asparagus Disease Management into the Future with Real-Time, in-Field Sensor Data, $99,800

• Michigan Carrot Industry Development Program – Evaluating and Disseminating Soil Amendment Practices to Mitigate Heavy Metal Uptake by Carrot, $100,000

• Michigan Onion Committee – Combining Pest Control Strategies to Increase Quality of Yield of Michigan Onions, $98,814

• West Central Michigan Horticultural Research, Inc. – Finding Solutions to Cherry Orchard Replant Disorder Using Chemical and Organic Amendments, $95,685

• The Michigan Tree Fruit Commission – Characterizing Apple Storage Practices and Potential Risk of Listeria Contamination, $99,984

• Michigan Potato Industry Commission – Climate Resilience in Potato: Field and Storage Assessment, $100,000

• Michigan Blueberry Growers Association – Researching Efficacy of Growing Blueberries in In Ground Containers Through On-Farm Trials, $99,793

• Michigan Cherry Committee – Branding Montmorency Tart Cherries with a Geographical Indication: Legal and Consumer Research and Development, $89,000