California cherries blooming

Cherry production issues could benefit from federal funding through the 2014 Farm Bill.

USDA targets specialty crops, organics with grants

Deadline fast-approaching to apply for federal grants Funding targets specialty crops and organic production

The USDA will spend more than $66 million to fund research and extension activities to address specialty crop and critical organic production issues.

Grants through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative are administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and made available through the 2014 Farm Bill.

The purpose of the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) is to fund high-priority research, education, and extension projects that enhance the ability of producers and processors who have already adopted organic standards to grow and market high quality organic products. Priority concerns include biological, physical, and social sciences, including economics.

Funded projects will aid farmers and ranchers with whole farm planning by delivering practical research-based information and will improve the ability for growers to develop the Organic System Plan required for certification.

Specialty crops are defined in law as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.” The Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) develops and disseminates science-based tools to address the needs of specific crops.

The projects funded will address research and extension needs for crops that span the entire spectrum of specialty crops production, from plant genetics to improving crop characteristics. Issues surrounding pest and disease threats, food safety concerns and improving production profitability are covered by the grants.

SCRI pre-applications are due March 30, 2015, and full applications are due July 2, 2015. See the request for applications for specific program requirements.

Additionally, in fiscal year 2015 NIFA will make $25 million available through the Citrus Disease Research and Extension (CDRE) program, a subset of SCRI focused on research and extension activities to improve citrus health.

A Notification of Intent to Submit an Application is due on April 1, 2015. Full applications are due April 30, 2015. Visit the request for applications for specific program requirements.

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