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Minnesota Ag News Headlines
$1.2 million USDA grants boost Minnesota specialty crops
Minnesota Ag Connection - 11/30/2023

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is elevating the state's specialty crop sector by awarding over $1.2 million in USDA Specialty Crop Block Grants for 2023. These grants, benefiting 11 projects, are dedicated to enhancing the competitiveness of Minnesota-grown specialty crops in both domestic and international markets.

These grants support various initiatives, including marketing, research, increasing access, and addressing challenges faced by specialty crop producers. The 2023 recipients are diverse, with projects ranging from market access training to managing invasive species affecting crops.

Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen appreciates USDA's support, emphasizing its role in strengthening Minnesota's specialty crop market presence. The USDA Block Grant, under the Farm Bill, funds these initiatives annually. Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticultural and nursery crops.

Key projects funded this year include:

• Hmong American Farmers Association, led by Dao Yang, received $96,578 for training Hmong farmers in accessing new markets and enhancing local tree fruit availability.

• Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, with Nora Shields-Cutler at the helm, got $60,095 for developing Harvest of the Month programming targeting Minnesota's young eaters.

• Minnesota Farmers' Market Association, headed by Kathy Zeman, received $124,779.60 to create multilingual translations of field conditions and price reports for Minnesota specialty crops.

• The Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Michelle Grabowski spearheaded a project with $124,710 funding to identify best practices against red star rust in apple and nursery crops.

• Nicole Baysal from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture received $125,000 for produce safety improvement grants and training.

• Rachel Wandrei, also from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, secured $94,000 for statewide promotion of Minnesota Grown specialty crops.

• From the University of Minnesota, Dr. Brandon Miller received $125,000 for research on jumping worm management, while Daniel Kaiser got $124,533 for optimizing dry bean nutrient management.

• Matthew D. Clark from the University helmed a project with $107,110 funding for caneberry genetic improvement.

• Vera Krischik also from the University received $125,000 for developing a biocontrol agent for Japanese beetle in various crops.

• Lastly, Sprout MN, led by Taran Skwira, received $110,473.84 for specialty crop value education and expanded marketing in rural communities.

Applications for the 2024 Specialty Crop Block Grants are expected to open in January 2024. More information on the grant program is available on the MDA website.

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