The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved funding of $3.1 million for projects to support Washington State’s fruit and vegetable growers.    

The USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant will fund 20 projects managed by the Washington State Department of Agriculture and other organizations, 13 of which relate to tree fruit and grapes. Recipients were selected through a competitive process. All of the awards have matching funding or in-kind donations provided by the applicants.

Funded projects involving tree fruit and grapes include:

  • Access to institutional markets: $112,957 to the Washington State Department of Agriculture to improve producers’ access to institutional markets, such as schools, childcare providers, and senior meal programs.
  • Clean Plant Campaign: $248,750 to the Washington Wine Industry Foundation to ­survey vines in certified nurseries for diseases and conduct a statewide disease-­prevention campaign.
  • Concord grapes: $65,386 to Washington State University to develop a sustainability assessment tool for Concord grape growers.
  • Decision Aid System: $214,215 to WSU to upgrade its DAS system and train growers on how to use it for making informed decisions relating to pest and disease ­management.
  • Direct marketing: $163,940 to the WSDA to create fact sheets on new food safety ­regulations for small farms and direct marketers.
  • Food safety: $103,246 to WSU for workshops and field days to increase implementation of on-farm food safety and good agricultural practices among specialty growers.
  •  Frost forecast: $62,000 to the Washington State Horticultural Association to fund spring and fall fruit frost forecasts on the radio and Internet in 2012 and 2013.
  • Fruit promotion: $100,000 to the Washington State Fruit Commission to create a public relations event in Indonesia to increase awareness of use of Washington fruits. The event, conducted in collaboration with the Washington Apple Commission and Northwest Pear Bureau, will feature recipes and demonstrations from celebrity chefs.
  • GAP education: $245,537 to the WSDA to educate small to mid-sized farms to help them meet Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices requirements, and to develop resources and tools for WSDA auditors.
  • GRAS2P: $172,577 to the Washington State Hort Association for its Growers Response to Agricultural Safe and Sustainable Practices program to help orchardists attain third-party certifications for good agricultural practices.
  • Hard cider: $74,999 to the Northwest Agriculture Business Center for research on hard cider apple varieties and production methods in order to develop a hard cider culture in western Washington.
  • Organic statistics: $65,162 to WSU to compile statistics on organic specialty crop ­production and provide them to growers to use in making business decisions.
  • Retail training: $203,900 to the Washington Apple Commission to conduct seminars and video presentations for retailers on the care, handling, and merchandizing of Washington produce in collaboration with the Pear Bureau Northwest, Northwest Cherry Growers, and the Washington Potato Commission.
  • Spotted wing drosophila: $170,241 to WSU for research on the basic ecology of this new pest and how to protect crops from it, with the emphasis on sweet cherries and apples.
  • UV sanitation: $78,740 to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service to explore ultra-violet light treatment of tree-ripe fruits, such as apricots or peaches, as an alternative to ­chemical sanitizers to minimize the risk of human pathogens.
  • Block grants: Other grants for tree fruit and grape research have been made through the Specialty Crop Block Grant program administered through the states. That program has awarded $169 million since 2008 and will provide another $55 million in grants in 2012. For details on specific projects, see the article “Specialty crop block grants back fruit research” and “USDA grants $3.1 million for Washington specialty crops” on the Good Fruit Grower Web site at www.goodfruit.com.